Flat Rock of the Old Time
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The intoxicating "champagne air" of Flat Rock, North Carolina, captivated residents of lowcountry South Carolina

in the nineteenth century because it offered them respite from the sickly, semitropical coastal climate. In Flat Rock of the Old Time, editor Robert B. Cuthbert has mined the collections of the South Carolina Historical Society to publish a documentary history of the place and its people. While many visitors came and went, others chose to become permanent residents. Among the Flat Rock settlers were some of the most distinguished South Carolina gentry: Blakes, Rutledges, Hugers, and Middletons.

They established the Episcopal parish church of St. John in the Wilderness Church, where many of them are buried. They also supported a local economy that helped provide livelihoods to native residents who supplied them with goods and services. Visiting each other daily, they swapped news and gossip, sharing their joys and burdens. Lowcountry families refugeed to Flat Rock during the Civil War, thereby escaping the devastation of the coast but not the revolutionary consequences of the war, such as emancipation, occupation, and economic collapse. And through it all they wrote letters. Some refugee-residents sent off missives every day, describing the delicious weather, the activities of their neighbors, and the entwining relationships of family, faith, business, and recreation that sustained Flat Rock.

The century chronicled in Flat Rock of the Old Times is viewed with a combination of nostalgia and clear-sightedness, not only by Cuthbert but also by his correspondents. Guided by the editor's copious introduction, annotations, and textual apparatus, readers experience the conjunction of people and place that was Flat Rock.



Publié par
Date de parution 15 juillet 2016
Nombre de lectures 0
EAN13 9781611176476
Langue English

Informations légales : prix de location à la page 0,2350€. Cette information est donnée uniquement à titre indicatif conformément à la législation en vigueur.


Letters from the Mountains to the Lowcountry, 1837-1939
Robert B. Cuthbert
2016 University of South Carolina
Published by the University of South Carolina Press
Columbia, South Carolina 29208
25 24 23 22 21 20 19 18 17 16
10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
can be found at http://catalog.loc.gov/ .
ISBN 978-1-61117-646-9 (cloth)
ISBN 978-1-61117-647-6 (ebook)
Front cover photograph of Flat Rock, NC,
courtesy of the Library of Congress.
For A.L.C.
Editorial Note


Cast of Characters
Twenty years ago at the South Carolina Historical Society in Charleston, I opened for the first time a box of letters from members of the Middleton-Cheves family. I ve been returning to those boxes ever since. These two families, connected by marriage, were, in the nineteenth century, large coastal rice planters. To escape the dreaded malarial fever and the exhausting summer heat, they sought refuge in the Appalachian settlement of Flat Rock, North Carolina. The families were prodigious correspondents, keeping in touch with Charleston by weekly-often, daily-letters, and they religiously saved every one, amounting to thousands, covering the period from 1837 to 1939, a family history of a century.
Mostly for the reading pleasure, I began copying some of these letters in notebooks, but also to please my friend Elise Pinckney, a Charlestonian who since childhood had spent summers at Flat Rock with her family at Hemlocks on Rutledge Drive. She and I took many excursions in those delightful summer days in the mountains-picnics and hikes. That is how I came to know Flat Rock. It was Lise who guided my hand with an affection I will never forget.
My notebooks began to fill, and in the winter of 2010 I had the idea for producing a book of letters. Karen Stokes, the archivist at the South Carolina Historical Society and a published author and authority on the Civil War, offered to type the letters from my pencil copies with their erratic punctuation, spelling, and ellipses. With her patience and persistence, 233 pages appeared, and I felt we had made a book; Karen was truly its godmother.
I ve known Steve Hoffius almost forty years. He too is a published author, an editor, and a partner in a publishing company. There came a period when the typed manuscript required a bit of polishing. The essential message veered away into verbiage that lost the reader s interest. Steve, with a skilled ear, knew when to save the pulp in a paragraph and discard the rind. We spent many hours in the surgical procedure to keep our letters vibrant and yet faithful to the writers intentions. To chronologically arrange a book of letters in which many are undated, where only internal information may hint at the year, is to face hours of speculation and uncertainty. That was a great challenge. Steve took on the onerous labor of shaping the structure of the book by chapters, arranged for maps and photographs, and negotiated with the requirements of the publisher, never with impatience or discord: I have no words to express my appreciation.
Many Saturday mornings were spent at the South Carolina Historical Society. The staff were wonderfully helpful, friendly, and tolerant of my slow paper-and-pencil style while laptops worked all around me. I have forgotten many names, but those I remember I think of as family members, especially Susan Dick Hoffius, Lisa Hayes, Karen Stokes, Pat Hash, Mike Coker, Neal Polhemus, Pat Kruger, Mary Jo Fairchild, Virginia Ellison, and Molly Inabinett.
I am privileged to use several rare photographs in the book, and other written material, and here acknowledge the generosity of the donors: Elise Pinckney; Mrs. Lawrence Lee, who made copies of correspondence between Langdon Cheves and I on Lowndes; Mrs. Frank P. Rhett, who provided an image of Daniel Blake of Combahee and the Meadows; Mrs. A. B. Peterson, for the photograph of a painting of John Parker s Rockworth; Mrs. Philip Ambler, for an image of Frederick Rutledge; Mrs. Thomas Pinckney, for giving permission for the use of Captain Thomas Pinckney s reminiscences; Henry Burke, for a Lowndes family genealogy; Dr. Alexander Moore, for his own notes on Flat Rock; John Cudd of Hendersonville, for generously sharing information he had gathered on Farmer s Inn; and the Henderson County Public Library, for the images of Judge Mitchell King and Mr. McAlpin s house. I am grateful to Paul F. Rossmann for his skillful laying out of the two maps included here, essential contributions to this volume.
My own good fortune at the South Carolina Room of the Charleston County Public Library led me to Lish Thompson, Linda Bennett, Dot Glover, and Molly French. These charming ladies instructed me in the wizardry of the perpetual calendar and the riches of the Internet.
An inordinate amount of my time was spent in the offices of the register of mesne conveyance in Hendersonville and Asheville, North Carolina-a necessity, a challenge, a frustration, but mostly a final reward, with a willing staff at hand.
Editorial Note
The letters in this volume have been divided into eight chapters arranged chronologically. An introductory heading reflects the new material, community news, and the affairs of the summer people. Unless noted otherwise, all the letters are among the collections of the South Carolina Historical Society in Charleston. Occasional gaps appear in the chronology of the letters-for instance, from 1852 to 1862. Dr. Charles M. Cheves bought Acton Briars in 1854 and died in December of the following year. He left a wife, Isabella, and four children, none older than seven. Later, Acton Briars would be the source of the bulk of this correspondence, but not yet. Also, no letters appear between 1866 and 1870 because so many lowcountry families had lost virtually all their male heads of households in the Civil War. Women and children would not have stayed in Flat Rock by themselves. For decades, though, the households were dominated by women and most of these letters-the news and gossip, the viewpoints and perspectives-are theirs.
The letters have been edited to reflect the changes in Flat Rock and in the families resident there. A great deal of the correspondence was intensely personal-health woes, inquiries as to individuals travel plans-and much of this has been removed, the excisions identified by ellipses. Unedited, all these letters would fill double these pages, and while the editor has enjoyed perusing all of them, he has chosen not to inflict them on the reader. Likewise, a multivolume set would be necessary to hold the full correspondence. Paragraph breaks have occasionally been inserted for easier reading. Misspellings have not been corrected. Salutations have been removed to save space.
Unfortunately, many of the letters from Isabella Cheves to her son Langdon in the 1880s and 1890s were not dated, and are here dated cautiously, based when possible on their interior information. Isabella s preference for pencil and cheap tablet paper has presented a challenge not easily mastered. Legibility varies among the correspondents-Langdon s writings are clear until he passes his eighth decade-and occasional inscrutable words are replaced with the word illegible in brackets.
In this introduction and in the notes to the correspondence, reference is often made to land transactions: so many acres were purchased one year and resold another year. All of that information was gained from years spent searching through the records maintained by the register of mesne conveyance, primarily in Hendersonville, Henderson County, North Carolina.
They were a grand race those gentlemen of the old time. Self willed and overbearing perhaps, but with no meanness or paltryness about them. Theirs was the strength of the lion.
Langdon Cheves, 27 October 1905, on hearing of the death of Richard Henry Lowndes (1815-1905)
A traveler in the early 1800s coming up from South Carolina to the crest of the Blue Ridge would have discovered a country of great natural beauty and an invigorating climate. Scattered settlers had already cleared home sites among these rich forests of pine, hemlock, and oak. A small farm was identified by a tight log cabin or house, with a cow, a horse, chickens, and a few pigs, along with a modest orchard of plum and cherry, and several rows of corn, potatoes, cabbage, and beans. A little distance away, Kalmia and rhododendrons sheltered a fast stream of pure water. Along the threaded creeks of the flatlands, the soil was particularly fertile and suited for crops. Neighbors lived some distance away. Dirt roads cut through the woods, disappearing over the undulating countryside. While the far views of high mountains might tempt the dreamer, the settler s life was too severe to yield to romanticizing.
As the settlement grew, there was need for a geographical identity, and the name chosen, an obvious one, was Flat Rock, for the several acres of bare granite coming to the surface on both sides of the main road. When travelers reached the rock, they were in Flat Rock. Until recently, Native Americans had used the site for ceremonies, but they were now almost entirely gone, moved west first by the Treaty of Hopewell in 1785 and finally in the Trail of Tears in 1838. In 1931 Langdon Cheves, who had spent time at Flat Rock since before the Civil War, replied to an inquiry, No Indians at Flat Rock in my time, except Cooper s and the last of the Mohicans! 1
The earliest known commercial enterprise in Flat Rock was Colonel John Earle s grist mill on Earle s Creek, established in 1791. Earle (1737-1804), a native of Virginia, moved to the Spartanburg, South Carolina, area before the American Revolution. According to author Virginia Meynard, Earle built the famous Saluda Gap Road, and obtained land patents for much of the area that was to become Flat Rock. Earle s mill was located on what is now Jordan Creek. Another early community need was satisfied by Kuykendall s Tavern, dating to about 1800, and located on the old state road (the present Rutledge Drive), servicing all travelers, drovers, and the road weary. Just west of the tavern was Mud Creek Baptist Church, which had an active congregation by 1805. Early records mention few sites, but we may imagine also the sound of the hammer and anvil at the blacksmith s and, in the distance, the whining buzz of the saw. 2
The lands west of the Blue Ridge, going into Tennessee and Kentucky, were ideally suited to livestock, but the larger markets were far to the east, principally in South Carolina and Georgia, and the lack of adequate roads in that direction stymied trade and profit in both directions. A journey on horseback from the mountains to the coast took at least ten days and much longer by carriage. 3
In 1815 Joel Roberts Poinsett (1771-1851), a Charlestonian of exceptional mental and physical energies, returning through western North Carolina from a tour of the Ohio and Mississippi valleys, Kentucky, and Tennessee, recognized the value in trade these regions could bring to the Port of Charleston if an improved road were constructed connecting the Blue Ridge to the coast. Poinsett is credited with planning and implementing the building of this road, from upper South Carolina through Saluda Gap to the North Carolina state line, then into Buncombe County. The Buncombe Turnpike, as it came to be called, opened to traffic in 1827. Sadie Patton wrote that the turnpike was to mean more in the development of the western part of North Carolina than any other factor in its history. 4 By 1830 the road extended to Asheville and, following the French Broad River, eventually reached Hot Springs in Madison County before crossing into Tennessee.
In the years following, many thousand horses, mules, cattle, sheep, and pigs, as well as turkey and geese, moved down the turnpike from the Blue Ridge and beyond, advancing on foot eight or ten miles a day. A trip to the coast might take six weeks, requiring taverns and corrals along the way for man and beast. In Flat Rock one such accommodation was located at the foot of Butt Mountain. Another, known as Brittens, later taken over by George Summey, was on the main road in Flat Rock, set well back from the traffic at what is now the entrance to Little Hill, the Henry Laurens place.
Built for commerce, the turnpike was also the most convenient approach to Buncombe for the South Carolina planter escaping summer heat, humidity, malaria, and the deadly yellow fever. However, even with improvements the road was narrow, heavily rutted, winding, and, in places, treacherous. The journey by horse or carriage still took a week to ten days. The stage from Greenville to Flat Rock jostled the confined passengers for ten or twelve hours before arriving at its destination. But those first breaths of Champagne air (so christened by Charlestonians) made the tedious journey worthwhile. 5
The earliest of the lowcountry planters to acquire land for summer homes in this area of Buncombe County were Daniel Blake (at French Broad) in 1826, Charles Baring in 1828, Frederick Rutledge and Judge Mitchell King in 1829, and Henry McAlpin of Savannah, Georgia, in 1833.
In October 1828 Charles Baring and his wife, Susan (the early deed was in her name), acquired two hundred acres on the waters of Earl s Creek on both sides of Saluda road east of Mud Creek meeting house. When Susan Baring made her will in 1830, she gave as her place of residence The Mountain Lodge, Buncombe County, North Carolina. Between 1828 and 1843, Mr. Baring was to expand his holdings to a total of 2,433 acres. He did so with a retinue of sixty slaves in attendance. 6
But it is Susan Baring (1763-1845) who draws our attention, for to quote Christopher Memminger, she had her own way in everything. 7 No individual among the early Carolinians was so compelling as Mrs. Baring (the name is pronounced bearing ). She was a woman with a sketchy background, who by her first marriage and early widowhood was made an heiress and, with an extraordinary capacity for self-invention, was able to assume the role of a grande dame and convincingly play the part for nearly half a century.
Most of what we know of Mrs. Baring s early life is taken from James Heyward s family history, Heyward , perhaps a biased source. 8 She was a charmer. Born Susan Cole in Wales in 1763, she gained scant education but succeeded in luring into marriage James Heyward (1764-1796), a wealthy, aristocratic South Carolina rice planter in 1794. He died two years later, leaving his widow a life interest in the income of three valuable coastal plantations on the Combahee River: Antwerp, Copenhagen, and Hamburg. Two years after Heyward s death, Susan took a second husband, Charles Baring of the family of English bankers.
From the outset the Heywards were suspicious of this woman. Nathaniel, James s brother and the designated heir to those three plantations at Susan s death, instructed his agent in London to examine the records in the English courts for any irregularity in James s marriage that might invalidate the union with Susan, and therefore her right of inheritance. The hoped-for flaw was not found. What came to light, however, was Susan s private life: before her marriage to James, she apparently had been mistress of five other men, none of whom made her his wife. Moreover, she came from a poor class of tradespeople, her father having been a butcher. These revelations provided Nathaniel with sufficient cause to forbid the ladies of his household (who lived on neighboring plantations) from having any social contact with Susan. Nathaniel s edict was insult enough to Mrs. Baring that her husband sent a challenge to Heyward. The two men, with pistols, met on neutral ground between their respected properties. Shots were fired, but there were no injuries. The date of the affair is unknown, but doubtless the sting of circulating gossip made Susan uncomfortable, hastening her move to Flat Rock. 9
Following Susan s marriage to Charles Baring, three of her relatives appeared in America. Mrs. Baring claimed Dr. Henry Tudor Farmer as her nephew. He had studied medicine in England, and late in this country developed an interest in writing and theater, which took him to New York and an association with a cosmopolitan group of writers and intellectuals, Washington Irving among them. Dr. Farmer died in 1828, before the Barings move to Flat Rock, but one of his sons, Henry Tudor Farmer, known as Squire Farmer of Farmer s Hotel (now Woodfield Inn), settled in Flat Rock. A valuable citizen, beyond operating the hotel he built local houses and operated a furniture factory. The squire was also something of an ombudsman in the community, and for a time the magistrate. A number of letters in this volume refer to his usefulness to the public. He died in 1883 at the age of sixty-three.
Adolphus Tudor, a member of Mrs. Baring s Mountain Lodge family, and an original communicant of St. John in the Wilderness, remains an obscure figure. The same must be said of Dr. Frederick B. Tudor, who died in 1814 and is buried not far from the Barings Combahee plantations. An engraved poem on his stone, a mother s lament on the loss of a son, suggests Susan s hand. She claimed no children, but the suspicion that Adolphus and Frederick Tudor were her sons has never been put to rest. She was a complex woman who concealed a turbulent past.
Another major figure in early Flat Rock was Mitchell King (1783-1862). He held the belief that a country could not prosper without an educated population and a vibrant exchange of commerce, and these principles guided his public life. Born in Crail, Scotland, as a youth he was a passionate reader, a student of the classics and mathematics, his early interest in medicine giving way to a study of commerce.
At age twenty-two King set off from London for the port of Charleston. It is not known whether he had personal contacts in the city, but with confidence and determination he opened a small private school; that soon led to an assistant teaching position at the College of Charleston and a prompt elevation to principal (a position equivalent to president) in 1809. King was at the college six or seven months only but later recalled this time as the most useful period of his life. He possessed a capacious memory, an accomplishment he attributed to writing down a synopsis of the material he had just read and comparing it to the original, and repeating the exercise until he had mastered the challenge. He would have been a superb teacher, but as a profession he chose the law, studied for it, and by 1810 was admitted to the South Carolina Bar, focusing on nautical and mercantile affairs. His income in time grew to be one of the largest in the state. 10
In 1842 King was elected recorder and judge of Charleston city courts, and he was thereafter known as Judge King. Recognized for his sense of civic responsibility, in 1817 he was named a trustee of the College of Charleston, and in 1837 was honored by the Medical College of South Carolina with the position of president of the board of trustees (equivalent to the office of president). Both the College of Charleston and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill awarded him the degree of Doctor of Law in 1857.
Commerce first brought Judge King to western North Carolina in 1829, as he foresaw the vast benefits of trade if the regions west of North Carolina extending to the Mississippi Valley could be linked, first by roads and later by rail, to the southeast coast. King was in Asheville in 1832 supporting such a rail line, and in 1837 in Knoxville, Tennessee, on the same mission-this at a time when even adequate roads crossing the mountains were primitive. In her 1906 book, Charleston: The Place and the People , Mrs. St. Julien Ravenel wrote of Judge King, He had made himself by force of intellect, learning, and character, one of [the city s] most prominent and valued citizens. 11
Judge King bought his first Flat Rock property, 250 acres on Mud Creek, in October 1829, and he continued adding to his estate, so that by 1843 it amounted to 7,852 acres. His home, Argyle, was underway by 1830 but not completed until about 1837, when the Count de Choiseul wrote him to say, It gives me much pleasure to inform you that your house is at last in the way of being completed. 12 Twice married to successive Campbell sisters and father to eighteen children, eleven of whom lived to maturity, he is buried with his wives in the First (Scots) Presbyterian churchyard in Charleston.
One story of Judge King, shared with the editor of this volume by a Charlestonian who spent decades in Flat Rock, will give an idea of his personality. This informant said that when Judge King was president of the College of Charleston, as was the custom then he gave the morning prayer service to the assembled students. On the lectern, the Bible was housed in a handsome box, a heavy silk ribbon marking the place in the text. Judge King announced the reading of Psalm 119, opened the box and found that the students had filled it with old newspapers. Without a hint that anything was wrong, he began to recite the text just as if he were reading it and he recited the entire psalm from memory. My friend continued, Now if you knew your Bible -she knew that I didn t- you d know that 119 is the longest in the book, and he never said a word about the students deception. 13
Daniel Blake (1803-1873) acquired 990 acres on Cane Creek at French Broad (Fletcher), about twelve miles from Flat Rock, in 1826. His estate, known as the Meadows, would eventually grow to 7,000 acres, but he owned even more-a total of more than 22,000 acres in Buncombe and Henderson Counties. The Blakes were English; the first of the family came to Charleston in 1680. Early on they were large property owners and rice planters. The Blake plantation, Board House, on the Combahee River south of Charleston encompassed 11,000 acres, 450 of those prime tideland rice fields, the source of the family wealth. Mr. Blake was born in England and took his education in the mother country, and there is good reason to believe that Buncombe s pleasant climate and landscape reminded him of England. He preferred the mountains to the coast, settling his family at the Meadows. Several generations of Blakes are buried at Calvary Church in Fletcher, a church the family established.
There is a credible story within the Rutledge family about Daniel Blake and Frederick Rutledge passing through Buncombe County in 1825 or 1826. They were on their way to Franklin, Tennessee, to visit the family of Henry Middleton Rutledge, who had moved there in 1816, and whose two daughters were to become the brides of the two gentlemen. On their return to Charleston, Blake and Rutledge spoke with such enthusiasm for the Blue Ridge to their friends that the two of them, Judge King and Charles Baring, made the trip to see this fabled land for themselves, and others followed.
The original house at the Meadows burned in 1867; the present stone dwelling was built in 1884 by Daniel Blake s son Robert. 14 The property was sold out of the family in 1925 for a reputed $90,000. The garden, a grouping of enormous boxwood, among the largest in the country, and the house are now surrounded by warehouses and light industry and confined to a fragment of the original land. What is to become of this property endangered by unsympathetic zoning laws?
Frederick Rutledge (1800-1884) bought a 340-acre tract in Flat Rock, later known as Brooklands, in 1829, selling it in 1835, by then 270 acres, to Charles Edmondston of Charleston. The 70-acre difference is not explained, nor is it known whether Rutledge held other property in the community. He died in Flat Rock in 1884. Two of his charming daughters, Lise Rutledge and Sara Rutledge Pinckney, however, made their home at Rutledge Cottage. Their personalities illuminate numerous letters.
Henry McAlpin (1771-1851) of the Hermitage in Savannah, Georgia, was an architect by training and an early industrialist. He manufactured brick on a large scale in addition to operating iron foundries supplying materials for a growing Savannah. Two rice plantations on Argyle Island made him a neighbor of Judge King. McAlpin was too active in business to remain at Flat Rock, so it is no surprise that his appearance in Buncombe was brief. He bought land on the waters of Mud Creek and on both sides of Mill Creek in 1833, apparently 300 acres, from Gideon Stephens. Three years later he sold this property to Mr. Baring in two parcels, 138 acres and 165 acres. On the latter a house or other substantial structure was erected at this time, giving support to the belief that McAlpin was the builder of Dolce Far Niente. With the sale of 300 acres to Charles Baring, McAlpin divested himself of all his Flat Rock land, returned to Savannah, and is not mentioned again in the records. 15
Joel Poinsett s road across upper South Carolina, connecting with North Carolina at the state line, and the Buncombe Turnpike, going through Saluda Gap to the crest of the Blue Ridge, opened to traffic at about the same time, in 1827 and 1828 respectively. These improvements encouraged lowcountry Carolinians to make the 250-mile escape from heat and mosquitoes. A further incentive was the report of a future rail line advancing west from Charleston, making a summer home at Flat Rock an increasingly wise investment. Charleston travelers could get to both Greenville and Spartanburg by rail in 1859. No other community in the mountains was as convenient to reach as Flat Rock.
When, after the disruption of war, attention turned again to extending the railroad into North Carolina, it was decided, because of the shorter distance, to route the line from Spartanburg to Saluda, then on to Hendersonville, and eventually Asheville. The Spartanburg and Asheville Railroad Company was organized in 1873, and cutting and blasting soon began in earnest. Between Melrose and Saluda the rise of 4.7 percent, or sixty feet per mile, made it the steepest mainline grade in the United States. 16 It crested at Saluda in 1878, reaching East Flat Rock and Hendersonville in 1879. The Charleston businessman could now come and go conveniently between his mountain home and office in town. The new citizens would be not just planters but lawyers and bankers and those with large interests in textiles or cotton.
No period in Flat Rock s history was more unsettling than the Civil War years of 1861-1865. People in the mountains were divided in their loyalties. Of the seventy mountain counties, only two-Henderson and Yancey-voted in favor of a state secession convention. In Madison County, the proposal to secede was defeated by a vote of 144-28. Ultimately, while twenty thousand mountain men and boys enlisted with the Confederacy, eight thousand signed up with the federals. 17
There were tensions and feuds because of race or class. The lowcountry people, who were often rather insular, clearly had resources that the locals lacked: they left home for months at a time, brought servants, and expected to hire others from the community, sometimes haggling for lower wages. How could resentments not have grown? The vast majority of mountain residents were white, but the numbers of African Americans varied widely, from 2 to 25 percent, depending on the county. In Henderson County, the number was about 15 percent, but it may have doubled in the summer months when lowcountry residents arrived with their servants. 18
Although the Flat Rock settlement was spared active military engagements, by the summer of 1864 the neighboring countryside witnessed a serious disruption of civic society. Hopes for a southern victory were tenuous, and many soldiers, long absent from home and weary, knew it and began slipping away. Numbers of these exhausted troops passed through Henderson County in need of horses and corn, provisions that the Carolinians, hard up themselves, could not provide. Along with them was a dangerous element of local men who from early on had resented the privileged lowcountry people and their retinues of servants. Houses were broken into, valuables and horses stolen, and their owners threatened with assault. Flat Rock was no longer safe. When in June 1864 Andrew Johnstone of Beaumont was murdered, the South Carolinians who had the means to leave did so. For those who stayed, as Archibald Hamilton Seabrook explains in a November 1864 letter included in this volume, attacks and killings continued.
The destruction of property and wealth in the lowcountry at the end of the war required the summer people on their return to Flat Rock to exercise closer economy. Children and grandchildren lessened the pain of family losses, and in time new people moved into the community. Those with new money and extravagant ways amused the old residents. When people got on their feet again, a period of extended tranquility settled in, lasting some four decades. After 1900, however, the promotion of the Blue Ridge, particularly Asheville, as a healthful area, brought an inflow of tourists and automobiles, and the peaceful rural life that defined old Flat Rock came to an end.
After the First World War and into the early 1920s, a sense of relief and optimism took hold of the country s imagination. The automobile now in general use offered people mobility they had not before enjoyed. The older generation of Flat Rock s summer crowd was passing, and new people, new ideas, and new money were moving civilization forward. With large profits to be made in land speculation, the southern Blue Ridge was caught in a real-estate boom as civic leaders promoted the region s therapeutic benefits. Local populations, visitors, and new citizens alike drove up land values, setting off a mania for buying and selling real estate.
By the time land speculation subsided in Henderson County, old Flat Rock itself was fading away. The town of Flat Rock would eventually thrive, and some of the lowcountry community would remain, but the close-knit neighborhoods of cousins-when porch visits and trips to the post office occupied much of the days activities-would not survive.
In the century between 1837 and 1939, thousands of letters passed from Flat Rock to Charleston. Nearly all but the earliest letters included here were sent from Acton Briars, the Cheves family summer home. Our story is taken from that long correspondence.
The editor of these old letters has himself grown old musing over their contents and stepping into a past that is to him, and he hopes to the reader, alive with vibrant individuals waiting to be resurrected, telling us of Flat Rock in the old times.
The letters are from the Cheves and Middleton family collections of the South Carolina Historical Society in Charleston, housed in forty linear feet of letterboxes. Gathered together are three generations of personal and business correspondence, genealogical material, drawings, maps, plats, and historical memoranda.
This book contains, of course, but a fraction of the whole, selected for specific references to life in Flat Rock, from the early years of the summer settlement by lowcountry South Carolinians and terminating at the end of the 1930s, by which time old Flat Rock had been transformed into a faster, more modern place. The tranquil manner of living that brought so many people to the Blue Ridge in the first place could not survive the resort era and the passing of the old crowd.
With few exceptions, these letters were written by members of the Middleton and Cheves families. Acton Briars on Cheves Hill was a property firmly in Flat Rock when the family lived there but now just across the line in Hendersonville. Cheves Hill has lost its identity, but it begins at the intersection of the Hendersonville Highway and Pond Road (to use the old name), today the location of Pinecrest Presbyterian Church, rising in elevation beyond the church and extending northward, past Wistonia, a part of the old property, to the hill s descent at the creek just beyond what is now Charlestown Drive; the whole comes to about eighty acres.
In 1849 Charles Baring built the house (later named Acton Briars by the Cheves family) as a temporary residence after giving up Mountain Lodge and before his new home, Solitude, was completed. In 1854 Baring sold Acton Briars to Dr. Charles Manly Cheves, who died the following year, leaving his widow, Isabella Middleton Cheves, and four children: Langdon, born in 1848; Harriott, born in 1849; Henry, born in 1851; and Isabella, born in 1853. The household would soon include Isabella s mother, Mrs. Henry Augustus Middleton, and two unmarried sisters, Harriott and Alice Middleton. Although Acton Briars was a summer house, during the Civil War, when the South Carolina coast was threatened with invasion, the women and children lived there year round. It was from Acton Briars that Harriott Middleton sent her spirited letters to her cousin Susan Middleton ( see chapter two ).
The Cheves family would in time expand to include in-laws and grandchildren. When Isabella s daughter, Isabella Williams, died in 1888, her four little girls, Caroline (b. 1878), Isabel (b. 1879), Harriott (b. 1884), and Alice (b. 1887), were taken in by their grandmother, who gave them a home as long as she lived.
Isabella Cheves spent some sixty summers at Flat Rock, knew all the low-country families and many of the local people, kept up with community news, and never failed to report on Flat Rock s weather, new households, and, of course, all that was going on in the family. A voluminous correspondence accumulated over the years, most of it to her son Langdon. If they were separated for any length of time, a letter was in the mail, and Langdon apparently saved every one; the bond between them was singular and indestructible.
Langdon Cheves came of distinguished antecedents. His paternal grandfather, Judge Langdon Cheves (1770-1857), was a successful rice planter at Delta plantation on the Savannah River, and a political leader in state and national affairs. In 1816 the state General Assembly elected him an associate judge of the state. Judge Cheves s national reputation, however, was earned as president of the Bank of the United States (1815-18), during a period when extravagant speculation in southern cotton, followed by a collapse in the market and widespread default, imperiled the country s entire banking system. Judge Cheves, using his authority to restrain the supply of loose money, calmed the markets, preventing a financial breakdown. Historian A. V. Huff has called Judge Cheves, after John C. Calhoun, the most prominent South Carolinian in government in his day. 19
Henry Augustus Middleton (1793-1887), the maternal grandfather of our correspondent Langdon Cheves, was not a political man, devoting his energies to rice planting at Weehaw plantation on the Black River in the Georgetown District of South Carolina. The value of that property in 1850 made him one of the wealthiest planters in the state. Owning no Flat Rock property, he preferred the social life in Newport, Rhode Island, where he had a house near the Cliffs (still standing but moved) and a number of investment properties.
Our Langdon Cheves, grandson of the judge, eccentric and rich in old age, was responsible for the myriad historical records in the Middleton and Cheves collections of the South Carolina Historical Society. He preserved not only accounts of the past, but every type of written material crossing his desk; nothing was discarded. Charleston author John Bennett, himself no mean collector, referred to Cheves as an eccentric of the first water, an historical magpie. 20
Called Lang by close contemporaries, he spent his boyhood years in Flat Rock, which he recorded in drawings and watercolor paintings. Both were evidence of a talent that later worked into superb calligraphy and lists of native birds, the harvest of hunting expeditions in the woods of Henderson County with his cousin De Lancey Middleton, like himself a refugee from the coast. The boys shot everything from songbirds to game. The good conservationist of today cringes at their profligate use of the gun. 21
Every man was needed for the Confederate army, and Langdon, like all other teenaged boys, had heroic imagery stirring in the brain. Sixteen years old in 1865, he enlisted in the Seventh South Carolina Cavalry with a cousin, Allen Wardlaw, and they left for Virginia, reaching their destination in April, only to discover that the fighting was over.
We know little of Langdon s schooling at Flat Rock, just hints of instruction from elders in the home, and that in an informal manner. Nevertheless, when he returned home he was accepted at the College of Charleston. An excellent student, he graduated with full honors in 1871. Quick in mathematics and adept as a draftsman, he gained a position as a topographer with the Central of Georgia Railroad, surveying a line near Macon, Georgia. The heat was oppressive and the working conditions exhausting. It required little urging from his mother, Isabella, to bring him home. She emphasized the need for a man in the family to look after business affairs, in particular the Cheves rice plantations. Her suggestion, which he followed, was to study law and practice among his friends.
Langdon, confessing a distaste for appearing before a jury, was taken into the office of Gen. James Conner, a family friend, and assigned the essential work of preparing evidence, advising on points of law, and administering deeds and trusts. While law was to be his profession, Lang s great interests were the early history of his native state and the individuals who made those years exceptional. Indifferent to society in general, he was content with private hours investigating records of the past and putting his discoveries on paper, page upon page in his exquisite penmanship; there were no idle hours in his days. 22
At age forty, Langdon surprised his family by announcing his engagement to Sophie Haskell, his first cousin and his senior by three years. She had been part of the Acton Briars household since her student days at the Misses de Choiseul s school in the 1860s. Langdon and Sophie were married in the spring of 1889. Poor Sophie, with marriage, envisioned a comfortable, attractive home, welcoming to her friends, and an active social life. But Langdon, whom she had known for years, cared little for company, and with age came to resent domestic expenses above the absolutely essential. This was at a time when he had money; Langdon s frugality was almost pathological. As Sophie would tell him near the end of her life, That accursed money which you say you care nothing for and yet to which you sacrifice yourself and me all the time . . . has nearly ruined our married life. 23
Isabella Cheves died in 1912, and Langdon came into possession of the house and most of the land at Acton Briars; his brother Henry owned a house and several acres of his own, where in later years he built Wistonia. Sophie continued to spend summers at Flat Rock, and Langdon, as he had always done, came up in the fall, his favorite season. Without his mother and her grandchildren, now grown and separated from Acton Briars, the place lost its youthful spirit, aging with its inhabitants.
Sophie, who had suffered for several years with advancing heart failure, died in Charleston in the spring of 1922. Restless and unsettled, Langdon was back in Flat Rock that fall. He was there again briefly the year following, when he closed Acton Briars a last time and, as far as we know, never returned, although he lived another fifteen years. Uninhabited for a long period, the house deteriorated. In February 1939 a careless fire blamed on picnickers destroyed it. Langdon himself died on the last day of December the same year.
Henry Cheves was the last family member to live at Cheves Hill, spending the final two years of his life at Wistonia and dying there in 1951, three months shy of the age one hundred. Reminiscing late in life, Langdon Cheves confessed to have lived at a time of great events and charming people. 24
Chapter One
The trip from the South Carolina lowcountry to the North Carolina mountains took more than a week-with horse-drawn carriages, primitive roads, flea-ridden accommodations, and poor food. However, when Charlestonians arrived, they found nights, even in August, so cool that blankets were required, and the mountain air was delicious. Escaping an epidemic of yellow fever in the lowcountry, our travelers with means had come to investigate the new settlement of Flat Rock. The Blakes were here, along with the Kings, Rutledges, Lowndeses, Hugers, Memmingers, Middletons, and Parkers, and the Count de Choiseul and his family. The nucleus of the summer settlement was made up of Charlestonians .
Susan Baring stood out as the queen of the Realm, according to Alicia Middleton. Mrs. Baring lives in a beautiful place, which she leaves only in a chariot drawn by four horses followed by an outrider. Her parties and entertainments fascinated her neighbors and guests. Her reputation would long outlive her .
3 October 1837
It is now so long since I have written to you dear Cousin Euretta, 2 that I think you may perchance feel not otherwise than pleased at the sight of my familiar scrawl. My time has been very variously engaged with the ritual chequering of white and black days-among the latter must I class ten passed in my room some in bed, with the most painful sore throat I ever had; taken I believe during our last day s drive from the warm springs, and perhaps also attributed to a delicious bath which I there indulged in. . . . Mrs. Baring, 3 our lady patroness in these parts you know, was unfortunately born on the 22 of September, on every anniversary of which, she gives a ball; I say unfortunately for it occurred during my indisposition this time. Bina 4 and Sarah 5 went to the fete, and praised it con amore; the mountain was illuminated, and every arrangement most tasteful; I was quite provoked at my untimely fate, for everybody was at Flat Rock; just at the time of my illness, it was the season. We were very agreeably surprised at seeing Harriet Lesesne 6 and Mary Petigru 7 who were quite pleased with their visit before the accident. . . .
Emma Blake 8 has been on a visit to Mrs. Baring. She looks better than I ever saw her, clearer and smoother, but her figure poor child! is quite swollen; she looks as if she were anciente and is at times in pain with distension. Constantly nauseated or awaking in the morning and still spitting up blood, yet in most excellent spirits. Daniel speaks with distress of her situation. Mrs. Baring says they starve her too much, and she did seem better while staying with her and being fed. Henrietta Rutledge 9 has been a great deal in our neighborhood, staying with Mrs King, 10 who by the bye, is a most good natured, merry little body not the least partaking of the pomposity of the younger members of the Royal family. . . . Richard Lowndes 11 is quite an acquisition for me. He takes me to ride on horseback every morning and many other delicate attentions are paid, wh. add to my amusements. . . .
Write me a full immediate account of yourself Family; since Buncombe has seemed so much more agreeable to me I have often wished that you had come, notwithstanding the journey the lateness of the season when you wrote. We await security in the Low Country for our signal of departure. How delighted we shall be to see you again! Dear, dear Meeting St. how pleasant to be there once more.
27 September 1838
We have been expecting for the last three weeks either to hear from you at Greenville or to see you here, my dear Euretta or I should ere this have written to you. I am grieved to find by my last letters that you were still exposed to the danger of the town. How I do wish you could have come to us! All the little inconveniences privations in this part of the world shrink into nothing when compared with the risk anxieties you are enduring. Mr. Wilkinson was under the impression that Mrs. Huger 13 would leave the City at any rate come as far as Greenville, that you were to accompany her. It does seem to me that you are subjected to an unnecessary exposure, but at this distance it is impossible to understand all the pros cons. 14 . . . We were told at Asheville that there had been eight hundred cases less than two hundred deaths, this if true, bespeaks a disease very much less fatal than ever heretofore known in 17 24. I do not believe one in twenty recovered. . . .
During our little excursion of a fortnight . . . we had an agreeable party consisting of Dr. King 15 his wife, Mr. Mrs. Memminger 16 Mrs. Keith, very pleasant weather a beautiful country to pass through-and had it not been for anxiety on account of our friends in town, we would have enjoyed it very much; we were six days at the Sulphur Springs. I drank the water most diligently think it was of service to me. The drive on the French Broad is extremely beautiful, many parts equal to the Hudson. The people up here say much finer, if so I do not remember the Hudson aright. The situation of the warm springs is lovely, but unfortunately we could not try the bath to any purpose. The hotel had been burnt a few days before we arrived there . . . we remained only three days, took a ride into Tennessee retraced our steps homeward , that is to Flat Rock which is our present home. On the whole I prefer the places around here to any I have seen. Mr. Blake s [the Meadows] is a beautiful situation would if in order be a delightful residence but it is so ruinous at present, that it is melancholy. The gentlemen were away when we stopped, but Mrs. Blake Mrs. Rutledge 17 received us most affectionately, entreated us to stay a day or two when we declined even remaining to dinner gave us a very pretty nice lunch. . . .
I should prefer being nearer here, within three or four miles of the church, there are many beautiful spots within that distance. Izard has set his heart upon a summer residence here will I dare say buy a few acres if he can manage it. The climate is a strong temptation, without the beautiful country. Georgie 18 Anna offer their kindest love sympathy wish with me that you were here with us. Commending you my dear Euretta your darling children to the protection of our Heavenly Father in this special time of trial.
4 August 1839
I have not been in a state to address any one having pretensions to gentility, since leaving Charleston; but now methinks, after 10 days of purification I may approach you my dear Cos; still it is done with diffidence I assure you, for without joking, the vulgarity dirt which is encountered on the road between Carolina s chief city and these mountains, really make one doubt one s own claims to decency. The houses at which the lucky traveller is promised entertainment for man beast are only fit half the time, for the accommodation of the latter. I am getting a little imaginative, but in sober truth dear Cousin Euretta, we have encountered great annoyances; beds having bugs, and every meal taken to the tune of chicken chicken chicken. Should I return to you next fall in the shape of a chicken pie, you must not be astounded, but in charity have me enclosed in a Roumillat crust. We should have managed very badly without our bag of biscuits ginger cake; neither must a bottle of wine be omitted as a travelling companion, for it aids one in swallowing water which lacks some excuse for its colour. We took things very cooly, making short drives, and stopping to rest a day occasionally which days by the bye are anything but refreshing. I should rather past [ sic ] through my misery than prolong it.
But after all this tribulation we certainly have entered the mountains to some purpose, for the climate is delightful. Not one hour s heat has been ours, although we are said to have met the very warmest weather which has been felt this summer. The nights are so cool that we require blankets, and a shawl is necessary in driving out of an evening. We have seen but little of the surrounding country as yet, there being a great lack of curiosity in the party; and the sapient builder of this house perched it in the most convincing possible situation for avoiding a view of aught but the road and a few fields of corn. The hotel at Flat Rock just a half mile from us, is equally or more absurdly situated; very uninviting indeed; yet we are told that it is well kept, by which you are to understand that it is clean, and the table abundant. The company there is of course very transient and thus far has numbered none of our acquaintances but Mrs. Edwards, who astonishes the trees with her jeweled finger and embroidered capes.
The neighbourhood boasts you know of Mrs. Baring, the Choiseuls, 19 Mrs. King 20 the Parkers. 21 The first mentioned lady is queen of the Realm, and lives up to her title; in a beautiful place, which she leaves only in a chariot drawn by four horses followed by an outrider. Her hospitality deserves all that has been said of it apparently; we had not been here ten minutes before a saddle of mutton, a loaf of bread (no mean consideration in the country) and Mrs. Baring s compliments welcomed the party to Buncombe. She is fat, red , and almost twice forty ; possessing the greatest energy animation. She has been sick, with the exception of a day or two, ever since our arrival and was unable to get out of the carriage when she called, so that Bine received the visit a la Horry, in the lady s equipage; but I satisfied myself with a glimpse through the blinds, at the mountains in pearly white robes, and cap of blue. On her own grounds she built a very neat brick church, the minister of which she entirely supports. He gave us a tolerable sermon last Sunday, and the service was well attended; quite a respectable congregation we made.
Our circle has been saddened within a few days by the intelligence of Edward Lowndes s 22 death. He was a very good hearted fellow, full of the milk of human kindness so that his family must remember only, that he is lost to them. Henrietta Rutledge came down to Mrs. Kings a day or two ago and made us a visit, she looks pale, but otherwise pretty well. Mrs. Rutledge has gone to the Virginia Springs with Daniel Emma, the latter has had a fearful attack, indeed; yet the physicians say the blood which she brought up in quantities, was not from the lungs. So there is no danger of consumption. The scenes which occurred during her illness were enough to have killed her, much less maddened; there she was taking leave of her family each of whom was wringing their hands, weeping, talking of her as gone, making her will, and all manner of funeral preparations, when Mrs. Baring went to her and finding her suffering from perfect exhaustion, brought her up with nourishment and many assurances that she was not dying at all.
We are expecting the family; Sarah will be with us also. . . . For my own sake I should pray you to come to Flat Rock; you shall have a glorious climate as much of us as you choose. Mr. William King tells me that the drive is made comfortably in the stage; which brings one up in three days I believe. If you come let it be quickly write me more immediately that I may engage you a room. Bring biscuits, wine, a pillow camphor to frighten away the bugs. A Kentuckian complained of these last articles to a tavern keeper on the road, who vowed she had not a single bug in her house; no ma m says the sufferer, they are all married and have very large families. I wish you would be so kind as to write an order to Dr. Johnson for a quarter of a pound of myrrh let Jack get it take the parcel to Mrs. King who will be coming up next week. Bina is sadly in want of it. Pray write and tell me all about yourself my other friends give me a free pardon for this hurried scratch.
4 September 1839
My little namesake has had the pleasure of seeing her Papa before this time. 24 I suppose my dear Euretta, as we are in this out of the way place, have heard of his leaving time, though out of the way we have had a very pleasant summer, except during a short time while the house was too crowded for the supply of towels to serve us all. Now my sisters and my own, with lately Mrs. Ravenel 25 from Charleston with her 3 boys are the only families. People stop for a night or two on their way down. Many, finding the mountains too cool and going about this time to various Springs up in the upper part of our own state, Mr. Elliott, 26 your neighbor s son in law has just passed down apparently in a consumptive and Mr. Gadsden 27 and Read leave here tomorrow, rather better than when he went up. There are five families within 2 miles of the Rock house and Mr. Parker s about 3 miles further. There is a constant visiting, evening parties. Mr. and Mrs. Murray are each dining out today at a different place and from Mr. Blake s 12 miles off, the family ride down every Sunday to church and generally spend Monday in visiting. I suppose you have heard of Mrs. F. Rutledge s fine son, 28 she is quite recovered and Mrs. Fogg 29 is still with them and in her frequent visits to Mrs. Baring s we have all made acquaintances with her and find her a very pleasant person. My sisters Anne and Elizabeth 30 have just gone to the warm springs under the care of Mr. and Mrs. Wilkinson. 31 We are told the fare there is good and they mean to come back very fat. . . .
Mrs. King and half of her family have suffered a good deal from an overturn of the stage. No bones broken, however, but many black and blue faces. The young gentlemen have not yet appeared among the ladies. We, at Flat Rock, have given a ball. A very pretty affair, much assisted by the better taste of Mr. Ogilvy and my sister. The forest supplying various beautiful leaves for garlands, etc. and a neighboring place of which the owner is in Europe supplying dahlia, etc. Various families sent cooks and pastry cooks and the cake was excellent. I find that being a nurse and governess rather too much for me as I do not think in despite of the fine climate and a climate too that agrees with me I have gained any flesh.
The girls and myself beg the favor of you to select for us in NY, articles to make up their dresses of which we send a list. Mr. M. begs you to get everything of the best quality for he has a horror of my shopping.
We write soon, my dear Euretta that you may do all this at your leisure. I enclose $200. Would you send me a line to say that you have received it? We are all quite well in spite of even the children s parties.
9 September 1839
I was rejoiced at receiving your long hoped for letter yesterday my dear Euretta although upwards of three weeks after it was written, it was very welcome-
You will see by the date that we have run away from Flat Rock. We left there this day week [ sic ]. Our party consists of Mr. Mrs. Wilkinson, Liz, 32 Anne 33 I-The girls have been enjoying themselves wonderfully I should think at Flat Rock. They have had several beaux devoted to them. Mr. Wragg Smith, 34 Mr. Wm Lowndes, 35 Mr. James Pringle 36 (the one Liz was looking for so anxiously), DeLancey, 37 Rutledge Parker, 38 all at their service. A constant succession of dining riding driving parties when at home the gentlemen always there. That seems to be all that is necessary for excessive enjoyment.
Mrs. Baring gave a grand Ball which was enchanting. The young gentlemen got up one at the Hotel which was perfectly delightful, so they ought not complain of being dull. There has been too much of all this for me. I should have been better pleased to have been more quiet, but I have made out to exist without receiving Mrs. Baring s hospitalities. She has been very attentive, called upon me several times, repeated her invitations and constantly sends us fine fruit, so much so that brother Henry says that he finds the way to ingratiate oneself with Mrs. B is not to accept her invitations or return her visits. They do both and she sends them no fruit. I suppose she thinks they get enough when they go to see her. The neighbors are all extremely sociable. We have seen the Hugers constantly. All the family are in these parts except Joe. . . .
Mamma wishes you to exercise your judgment taste in selecting for her a black silk dress, four caps, a hat, any material but velvet the remainder of the money to be expended in as handsome a dark shawl as it will purchase, a hat, two dresses, three collars, for Eliza the rest of her money in gloves. . . . Annie Lizzy send their love. I believe they both intend to trouble you with some commissions. Tell dear Tom Aunt is pretty well much obliged for his enquiries. My kind regards to yr. Sisters-I do not think Harriott has been well this summer. She has too much fatigue with all the children.
Henry is looking around at Flat Rock, thinks it the finest climate he has ever been in, but has not made up his mind to purchase. Pray let us hear from you again soon. Write via Chas. I shall receive the letter in half the time. It comes in 5 days to Flat Rock.
15 September 1845
The time has slipped away from me pretty much as you describe it. But I really cannot understand how with any conscience, the piece of business of Tait Meggett could be undertaken by Mr. L. Jervey 40 in the absence of both partners, and I think the tax upon you was most unreasonable. This summering away from one s business is of itself a sad business, and if possible ought to be changed. Except for the mosquitoes Charleston is as good a summer residence as any place I know of in our state. This place is better, but it is the only one I know of. But the inconvenience to a large family with city habits are very great, and I find them more encumbersome each year as children become more in want of teaching. I find our plan of becoming their teachers does not work well. We are liable to too many interruptions, and to those who are seeking improvement of health, it s too confining. We are beginning to think of looking homewards, though I shall endeavor now to remain as long as the court will permit. Does Hilliard intend to try any more of the Steam Boat cases this term[?] I heard a vague rumor that Preston 41 had lately had a stroke of paralysis.
You have doubtless heard that old Mrs. Baring has at length died. Mr. Baring told me since her decease, that until within 13 days of her death, he never thought it anything serious, as he thought her constitution as sound as that of any hale person of 60. But that she would not be advised at all. She refused her usual medicines and had recourse to fancies, and exposed herself so, that nothing could be done for her. See how matters seem to go in the providence of God, and how the constant breach of any of his laws brings down its own punishment. Here was an old lady who had her own way in everything, and must finally thought of disease as Xerxes did of the sea.
We are likely now once more to have peace restored to our neighborhood, as all now seem disposed to the renewal of good offices. Mr. Pinckney 42 is still here, and he is acting as the pacificator, and from his known prudence will doubtless bring things together. I expect Mr. Barnwell to be up here tomorrow. He has traveled from the Virginia springs on horseback and writes me that his health is improved though he still has pain in his side. I understand that Mr. Rhett is also to pay us a visit. But why is it that you alone are so tied down to the city. I would rejoice to roam about these mountains with you. Can t you come yet for a couple of weeks in the beginning of October.
11 December 1849
. . . Have you heard the most extraordinary part of Mr. Parker s 44 will. Mr. Lesesne 45 one of his lawyers mentioned it so I suppose it must be true. He left the Flat Rock house to Arthur, 46 at a very high valuation, and said if Arthur would not take it at that price, it was to go to the girls, if they would not have it, it was to go to the Diocese of North Carolina on condition that the Flat Rock clergyman should preach every year a sermon on Honor thy father Mother. I propose Arthur should have a yearly sermon preached on parents, provoke not your children to wrath. The only sentence, I believe, in the Bible, where parents are ever supposed to be wrong. . . .
July [1852]
Have you weather like this, charming October weather, at New Port[?] It seems wonderful that this should be at midsummer. I feel like walking for miles, and am a perpetual laugh. It is Sunday and all the world at church, but I am sure I never could sit quiet such a day as this.
The King s Party, which was given to Marie and Sallie Rutledge, was, every one agrees delightful, but unfortunately I could not go, after taking great care of myself all day in hopes of being able to go I was so sick in the evening that I had to go to bed and give it up. I cannot make up my mind whether this climate disagrees with me or not. I certainly have been very sick once or twice since we came here, but after each attack, I have felt particularly well.
Charley 49 has found a sight [ sic ] for building which we both like overlooking Mr. Bearing s [ sic ] mill pond and belonging to him, but whether he will sell or not is very doubtful. It is nearly opposite the church in full view of the high road which I consider a great charm. I did not fancy Mr. Maxwell s 50 at all. The view is decidedly the finest up here, but like Mrs. Poinsett, 51 I had rather go see a mountain view than have it always before my eyes. I prefer a home view with cultivation like Dr. Kings. If as Charley says some body else would only cultivate for us, we want nothing but garden orchard.
But Mr. Maxwell s house was too high windy and the hill in front almost perpendicular, water being raised by buckets attached to a wire. The garden too half a mile off at the foot of the hill.
We play whist here in the evening, but I never improve in my play but am contented with being Miss Nowell s 52 partner as she has most wonderful luck. . . .
Many thanks to Harriott for my sleeves. The bundle arrived safely, but not the Pilgrims of the Rhine. I suppose that it was forgotten. Joe sent to town for all the books we could think of. If you hear of anything new write me word. Mary is as much delighted with The French Sticks as I was. Did you hear anything of Nancy s wedding[?] Fanny s brother in law has just died I see. Rutledge Parker asserts that Langdon has grown down since last year, which affronted Charley so much, that he measured Langdon immediately to prove his growth in the future.
The baby is growing frightful, which provokes me. I had hoped he would grow handsome as he grew more intelligent. His temper is perfect however.
Mrs. Kinloch begged me to make all sorts of affectionate speeches to Annie, I forget what exactly. She Cousin Mattie 53 both look very well. The latter has promised to give a party soon I hear. I hope I shall be able to go.
26 August 1852
La Tante 54 has arrived. She could not get in here at first, the house being full was quite angry with me for not engaging rooms she took Mrs. Lowndes up so shortly that she was afraid to talk to her. The stage broke down with her too between this place Henderson and she did not get there till eleven at night. She looks badly and Uncle Tom is quite lame. I made my peace by praising Euretta s improvement in appearance.
The Lowndes (Tom) were here all last week and we had dancing every night, enjoyed each other excessively. We miss them terribly now. Mr. Mrs. Lewis 55 had written for rooms, Miss [illegible] talks of giving them hers going to Henderson.
La Tante had a letter from Tom this morning at Saratoga just going to Niagra [ sic ]. Has he received a fortune?
A basket of cake Blamanger 56 from Cousin Mary. She is most indefatigably kind. Tell Harriott Arthur 57 is off to Miss Marie again this morning. Charles Manigault 58 was here last week and amused us very much. He seemed in tip top spirits all ways played games even more enthusiastically than Arthur. Julia Adela sang. The former s voice is excessively sweet. Mr. Lowndes great amusement was tormenting the girls, by rapping every five minutes at their doors when they were dressing telling them they would never be ready.
The children are flourishing. The baby tremendously wilful. When Uncle Tom arrived I heard screams of Grandpas, came rushing to see, found Harrie pointing him out to a little girl as my Grandpa.
The church squabbles still continue. Mr. Pinckney 59 offered his hand to Mr. Bearing he refused it, however he has got his square pew, which they refused him. Sally Rutledge has a frightful cough I hear. They have consulted Dr. Hardy he has made them very uneasy about her.
I rode to the Counts the other afternoon. They were not at home, but the place was beautiful. The hay just stacked.
Judge King has been quite uneasy of late, having had some irruptions [ sic ] fancied he had poisoned himself in the woods but the Doctor thought it was only red bug.
. . . Langdon 60 has not commenced growing fat yet is very fretful lately. . . . I must write to Harriott about my dresses now.
Is it true that the extravagant prices at New Port are driving people away[?] What news of the Middletons. Susan Mary 61 also.
Chapter Two
When the Cheves-Middleton family arrived in Flat Rock in 1862, they were refugees from the coast-mostly women, children, the elderly, and their servants escaping a Union invasion. Their home, Acton Briars, would be a year-round residence for Isabella Cheves, mistress of the house; her mother, Harriott Kinloch Middleton; Isabella s four children; and her two unmarried sisters, Harriott and Alice Middleton. Mrs. Middleton wrote in June 1862 that Flat Rock is quite a Charleston settlement now.
News and rumors of the war were shared and fretted over every day. The qualities of the soldiers were debated. In a letter from Harriott Middleton to her cousin Susan Middleton, she affirmed, I think the men of the present time so infinitely superior to those of our day. . . . I do not remember a single young man for whom I felt the reverence and admiration which I feel now towards a large number of men. Northern soldiers were another matter: The truth seems to be that the Yankees can do nothing but lie. I don t look upon them as having convictions of any sort.
Confederate soldiers-hungry and homesick-foraged over the countryside for corn and horses, necessities the lowcountry people, in want themselves, could not supply. The soldiers passing by have eaten up everything, Harriott wrote in February 1864. But the families tried to help as they could, knowing that their own loved ones were also in the army, hoping for generosity from strangers .
The stress of war began to break down civil society. West of Buncombe County, many of the mountaineers were Unionists. Some blamed the lowcountry people ( secessionists ) for the war itself. Deserters and marauders roamed the country, and the isolated location of estates encouraged lawless acts, including housebreaking and horse stealing. The murder of Andrew Johnstone of Beaumont in June 1864, described here in detail, was a warning to the South Carolinians, and those who could leave the mountains did so. Isabella Cheves and her family moved to Columbia, South Carolina, in April 1864, not to see Flat Rock again until 1871 .
The letters of Harriott Middleton (1828-1905) at Flat Rock to Susan Middleton (1830-1880) make up the bulk of the chapter. Unmarried cousins, both in their early thirties during the war, they had been as intimate as sisters since childhood. They traded news and gossip about the progress of the various troops. The worst rumor seemed constant: Charleston was always about to be captured. Oh! Susan, moaned Harriott, if they do destroy Charleston shall we ever forgive the Yankees?
For unknown reasons, no letters from 1852 to 1861 have survived .
14 May 1862
I was so glad to hear from you yesterday and I hope that long before this you have received my explanation for my long silence. We are very glad to have the move over, and to get away from all that agitation in town. It was too much latterly, and I began to think that we might come downstairs some day and find all the servants flown away as the excitement seemed to have spread to them. Mamma is already much better. She will stay with Mary 3 two or three weeks and already writes more cheerfully.
We hear today of Louisa 4 coming up in the stage, and Cousin Caroline s 5 family, and that there are ten families in Greenville waiting to be brought over the mountains. It has done nothing but rain ever since we have been here, and I have only been twice out of the house, once to the vegetable garden! from which we are hoping a great deal. It is very hard to get anything to eat we hear. As yet we have been so munificently supplied by our neighbors, that we have not needed anything, but are looking forward to living on nothing but bacon, of which Isabella has laid in a large supply. It is amusing to hear the lamentations over the absence of dessert. We expect a very quiet summer as many people have no horses, and there can be little visiting. Yesterday between the showers, Isabella went to the funeral of a Mrs. Stuart, 6 one of the Beaufort refugees. She says that everyone looks so ruddy and healthful, that it is almost enough to make one wish to remain here for the winter. I fancy whether we wish for it or not it may be our fate. Affairs seem in a more indefinite way than they have ever been before, not indefinite of course as to the end but as to the time and ways. What is the meaning of martial law between Santee and Edisto? Is any landing of the enemy feared? All the news we hear will be from you. No one here seems to know anything except through the newspapers. You can t think how wintry looking it was when we first arrived. The trees more bare and free from leaves than when we left last fall, and a cold autumnal temperature, but three warm days are making a marvelous difference, and the young green is everywhere to be seen.
28 May 1862
I was so glad to hear from you something about Cousin Sally, 7 dear Susan. I had been thinking of her ever since I heard the Georgetown news. I don t think even Yankee vandals could behave rudely to that holy woman. . . . There is nothing to tell you of our life here. We have been busy in papering lately. Only old paper, bought long ago, and thought too frightful to put up, and also hanging pictures and engravings from below. Then we spend odd half hours in the piazza enjoying this lovely, peaceful scene, and walk in the woods and gather flowers.
At night we have hitherto gathered round a fire and saved our candles, but hereafter we must trust to the starlight. . . .
19 June 1862
. . . Yesterday afternoon we went to church. Such a pretty little church, and to me week day services have a charm even greater than Sunday services. There are few people, and greater stillness. There seems always something more peaceful and holy about them. I only wish we had them everyday instead of the Wednesday afternoon which Mr. Reed 8 promises as long as his strength holds out.
This afternoon Isabella and I walked to Cousin Georgie s through the woods. It is so beautiful in some places. There is a fern valley, and a clear gravelly stream and beautiful swamp trees. We found Cousin Georgie at home and made a very pleasant visit there and she and Cousin Izard returned with us. . . . It is quite a Charleston settlement now.
Yesterday came news of Mr. Henry King s 9 wound, and this morning when we sent there they had heard of his death. Poor Adele 10 is in great distress. She was very much attached to her father. The Judge takes it very calmly. At his age one does not feel it so acutely. . . .
Oh, Susan, what trying times these are. We shall hardly know how trying until they are over. . . .
1 July 1862
I quite forgot when I wrote last but suppose it must be about a week and I have another charming letter to thank you for. We hope to hear tomorrow that our victory is complete, but alas! for the details that must then come. Poor Johnny Haskell, 11 who did not die, as we believed for about a month, has I see lost his right arm! We think that Henry Rutledge 12 must have been in the fight, as he was in Richmond some time ago. We have had the pleasure of seeing Sally twice. She looked still tired by her journey. . . . We hear of an engagement here. Miss Julia Lewis to Captain Julius Blake. 13 He came here for a few days. . . .
We went to such a touching funeral this afternoon, that of Charles de Choiseul. 14 His body has just arrived from Virginia. The first intimation the family had of his death. They thought him getting better. He was their last tie to this world. Does it not seem hard? Their father has gone to France taking his young wife with him, and all their property, $10,000, a gift from Mr. Willington, 15 but unfortunately a gift unaccompanied by law papers. They are overwhelmed with grief, and took to their beds, but this afternoon they got up and tottered into church, supported by gentlemen. They fell on their knees, and remained there during the service. The coffin was draped with the Confederate flag, and covered with flowers, and the service, particularly the part read in the graveyard, was extremely affecting. How self-sacrifice in this great cause, ennobles everyone. The ends of all our soldiers seem so peaceful and full of faith. You heard I suppose of Henry King s perfect peace, and willingness to die, hoping that God would forgive him his sins, and sending messages of love to all his family. Mr. de Choiseul I should imagine was somewhat like him in character. He writes just before he dies to his sisters, a letter, short but to tell of his willingness to die, and his happiness in giving up his life in such a sacred cause, and ending in hardly legible words, I go to join our dear Mother.
They all bring back to me the scenes of last year, and Mr. Smith s 16 account of Henry s 17 last moments, which I cannot yet read over. It affects me so powerfully. The last messages are rarely long absent from my mind. I am sorry for my Mother, for myself I care little. And every word costing him such agony. Mr. Smith said (not in the letter) that each word faintly whispered as it was, cost him a gasp of great suffering. In our hearts and thoughts he lives as truly as if daily in our sight. Only the sunshine which he shed around him, is gone forever.
We have heard from Frank 18 today. He seems to like the guardianship of the Port Royal ferry. He says they hear the Yankees continually, and occasionally shots are exchanged. Have you heard of Langdon Cheves 19 being ordered to Richmond with his balloon. He is the blindest man in the world. I suppose he gets someone with eyes to do the seeing part.
7 August 1862
. . . What made you think I had over exerted myself. I never exert myself at all. We have the greatest lives in the world, driving in the morning when it is not too hot, walking in the afternoons, and visiting occasionally, the Rutledges and Cousin Georgie always once and generally twice a week. Reading newspapers and their little trifles, fill up the intervening hours. Yesterday afternoon Sally came here after church to read us a letter from Lise, dated the 2 or 3rd of July. She says that Minna 20 is much changed from the joyous girl, and has lost much of her bloom under her load of anxiety. All the family were well. Sally seems to feel Lise s absence more and more. She is much dispirited. . . . It is reported here that the country people here are going to attack Mr. Johnstone s 21 house. Captain Cuthbert 22 and one of the young Cuthberts are to sleep there tonight. They sent here for some powder this morning! This seems to me to be the only fact in the story. I hope they won t come here for I should be frightened to death! . . .
19 August 1862
. . . Pemberton 23 told Papa that he expects an attack on Charleston very soon, and I hear that returned prisoners say that a desire for peace is growing at the North, but that they say they will first take Charleston! I sincerely hope that our harbor obstructions may stand the test of the autumn storms.
All the children in the neighborhood have had a disappointment. Miss Aiken 24 is not to be married in church. A few invitations sent to the French Broad have been revoked. . . . Bina s 25 account is that Etta is very romantic, and therefore cannot be married by daylight, and could not get candles to light the church sufficiently. What necessary connection there is between romance and candlelight I suppose it requires a young person to feel and explain. Captain Rhett will remain a week after the wedding. . . .
What a delightful cool change that was! Even this morning a little fire was pleasant. Bell says, If it is so cold now, what will it be in winter. We hear such different accounts of the winter climate. Mr. Baring, who had spent many winters here says that the winter climate is more delightful than the summer, that he can imagine nothing more perfect. Mary Huger 26 tells us the same thing. So I fancy that we shall like it. Everyone almost will be here. I only hear of Sally and the Memmingers as going away. Mr. Reed will probably remain here so we shall have the happiness of having the church open. . . .
The country people have objected to Mr. Johnstone s bringing up his negroes from the plantation saying it would raise the price of provisions. A hundred men swore to put him and his people beyond the state line. All the gentlemen in the neighborhood assembled at the house on the appointed day, and so prevented any demonstration. The men went off to a village near here and fought the secessionists there. I hear that our gunboat cannot be used for want of engines. Is it so[?]
18 September 1862
. . . How could you say of Mr. Robert Barnwell 27 that he did not inspire your entire confidence? Malicious and scandalous as some people are, his is a name which the breath of slander has never touched. I have never before heard of anyone who doubted anything he said. He has always had a Sir Philip Sidney or Chevalier Bayard reputation, clothed in spotless purity, distinguished for honor where all men are honorable. . . . 28
Some strange things have taken place here this summer, but the strangest happened this morning. Old Dr. and Mrs. Hanckel, 29 Mr. and Mrs. Means 30 and Miss Wilson were carried off to the Henderson jail, accused of having beaten an old country woman nearly to death! She was found tied to her bed, and dreadfully bruised and cut up, and averred that they had done it. The whole church was convulsed after service today on hearing this. The Johnstones had met them in the sheriff s custody, when they were coming to church. Mr. Farmer 31 hurried off and I hardly think they really could have been committed to jail, for as a magistrate he would prevent it. It shows the bitter feeling entertained here to the Low Country people. Isabella has an enemy, and I am beginning to fear that when he hears this he may try the same towards her. So if you hear that any of us are committed for murder don t quite believe it! . . .
We had such a beautiful sermon from Mr. Reed this morning. Mamma is to return to us soon, she seems quite well. If it is so, it will be a comfort, for which there are no words. Without Henry and herself for the last fourteen months we have been in the wilderness. Love to Ella and a kiss to the baby, and love to Mary 32 and the others.
25 September 1862
I have another letter to thank you for. We got it this morning, when setting out on a visiting expedition. We went to Judge King s, Bennetts 33 and Sally s. Judge King is very sick, not long for this world I am afraid. Susan 34 told me that he was failing fast, and that I would be shocked if I saw him, so great was the change in the few weeks since I last saw him. Poor Louisa 35 came in just before I left, looking worn out. You know she is devoted to her father, and lives only in the lives of others. It is such a pure heavenly character. Mrs. Henry King 36 was in the parlor looking so fair and placid and contented with her situation in life! Did I tell you that Adele 37 was left by her father s will to his sisters, and Adele is overjoyed at the idea of living with them. She has a very sweet face and manner, and Alice tells me is a very nice girl.
Sally told me this morning of a little encounter she had the other day with Mrs. Henry King. I must premise by saying that Sally is very sociable with Mrs. Williams 38 and Mrs. Chesnut, 39 and [she is] there a good deal. Mrs. Henry King is also sociable there. In a note to Mrs. Chesnut, Mrs. King alluded to a note she had received being almost as crushing as one of Sally Rutledge s curtsies, and just as Mrs. Chesnut was telling Sally this, Mrs. King walked in and repeated the speech. Thereupon a little war of words ensued. Mrs. King averred that when she met Sally, she praised her, and Sally drew off about a yard and made a profound curtsey. Sally denied this, but pleaded guilty to astonishment, and after a little circumlocution, said it certainly was one of those cases in which she ought to have turned the other cheek. There was a good deal more at which Sally was very indignant. We heard nothing new of the Bennetts, but Sally was as charming as usual. She says she feels very anxious about Henry and very hopeful about Lise. She now expects to go down by the end of October. A few days ago everyone was talking about town being quite safe, and they thought of returning, but now I hear that Beauregard 40 does not want non combatants in town, and that Mr. Miles 41 writes the attack is expected within a fortnight. . . .
We think that Mamma might be here tomorrow. She writes in good spirits and tells me of her morning walks and of the birds which shows me she is getting like her old self again. It is cold today, and touches of autumn are visible everywhere. . . .
I feel that when this letter reaches you, you will never be able to read it, you will be hearing so many exciting things from Virginia, so good bye. . . .
2 October 1862
. . . Frost seems never to intend coming this year-oh! It s so beautiful here, such skies and sunshine. Mamma lends them half their beauty. I remember Mrs. Holbrook s 42 saying of Lise, She is a blessing to be thankful for with tears, and I always felt that of Mamma and Henry. They were like the sunshine and sweet air bringing light and balm into every corner and crevice of life. There was about both so much devoted unselfishness, gentleness and serenity, not high spirits but a ceaseless flow of cheerfulness-cheerfulness as of the morning with the dew upon it. . . .
14 October 1862
. . . We had such a pleasant visit from Isabella s niece, Sophy Haskell. 43 She is at the school of the Misses de Choiseul, and is to spend her Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays here. She is a very intelligent womanly girl of 16, and has so much that it is interesting to tell. Her brothers are all in different positions in Virginia, almost all having risen from being privates to high positions, and all without solicitation, but as the reward of merit. Her brother Joe, 44 17, is on [General Joseph] Johnston s staff and he has given him a cadetship, which will entitle him to a commission when he comes of age. When she last heard from her brother, Johnston (Hermes notwithstanding) had not reported, having found that he could not ride on horseback. If I was at the beginning of my letter I would tell you of John Haskell s gallant action at the battle of Richmond, which Johnston pronounced the most gallant of all performed during the 7 days. They are a noble set of brothers, 45 Carolinians as they should be. Frank met up with a palmetto sharpshooter, who told him how gloriously our men fight, and they always have prominent places in the front assigned them, and in retreat defend the rear, so they are appreciated! Is it not pleasant to think of. I hear the same account from so many.
2 November 1862
Ellen King s lover, Captain Campbell 46 is here, a tall, manly, fine looking man. They say that they will be married shortly a perfect Gretna Green you see. 47 . . . It must be so interesting below, so absorbing to see history. I quite long to have an actual sight of the gunboats going about the harbor, and the sound of guns have very much the effect of one of martial music, but I am not sorry on the whole to be away from the excitement. It is such an exhausting thing, that still pastures are preferable. . . .
Since I wrote we have had weather as cold, Mrs. Drayton 48 says, as it ever was last winter. Milk frozen, ice very thick, and such a wind. It sounded like a great antediluvian (is that the word?) beast going about the woods roaring and destroying. One heard its tramp and the lashing of its tail. I liked it. There is something sublime about it. Isabella laughed at your asking if our house here could be as open as the Columbia houses. Only two of our bedrooms are plastered, the others are merely boarded and papered, but our situation is a warm one, low down, with trees behind, and a Southern exposure. . . .
We have gone out very little for some time, as our horses have very little to eat. People here will not sell their corn until they can get 3 or 4 dollars a bushel, and the settlers here of course cannot and will not give that, so what we are to eat by the end of next week is very mysterious. . . .
10 November 1862
You have heard before this I suppose of Papa s illness, which has made us very anxious. We heard of it on Thursday from Mr. Parker, 49 and Mamma and Isabella went off early the next morning and I hope have already reached Weehaw. 50 Frank 51 was there on Tuesday morning. I ought to have been able to go with Mamma, but alas my nerves have never recovered their tone, and I was so overwhelmed and agitated when I heard of it that Mamma would not let me go, and Isabella, the good angel of the family went. Alice was at the Blakes and could not easily be brought back in time. On Friday a second letter came from Mr. Parker saying that he was better, and yesterday I had a long letter from Papa himself. Such a warm kind cheerful letter. It was the left side which was affected but he says that he is now able to walk across the room.
Sally and the Bennetts (Mr. and Mrs.) and Miss Mazyck were the only persons not in the family, who were present at Ellen King s wedding on Wednesday night. Such a sensible proceeding, and the bride was in church today in her usual costume. Judge King I hear is very feeble, and did not seem aware of what was going on during the ceremony. He may die any day. We have been having some wintry weather lately, a few snow flakes fell here, and snow has been lying on the distant mountains making them look Alpine and dream like. . . .
The young people s Charleston plan is quite destroyed by this order to leave Charleston. Oh! Susan if they do destroy Charleston, shall we ever forgive the Yankees, and to think of the graves of our dead, as Miss Lucas 52 said with great agitation. By this time I hope Mamma is at Weehaw, finding Frank walking about the garden, and Papa out of his room again.
17 November 1862
. . . You will have heard long since of the death of Judge King. 53 It must be a great relief to himself and the family. Louisa, for two months, had only left the house twice for a few minutes, when her father was asleep, and could hardly have had strength to bear it much longer. . . .
23 November 1862
Not one thing have I to tell you dear Susan, this bright cold Sunday afternoon, but I write because tomorrow I shall not be able to. We hope to have Mamma and Isabella with us soon after breakfast, and I have promised if possible to carry Cousin Georgie to Mary Huger s which will consume 3 or 4 hours and in the afternoon I shall have some letters to write. Our nights do not count for anything as the lights are so poor we can only knit by them. It seems a very very long time since I last heard from you and yet it was only Wednesday. Do tell me what company Oliver 54 has joined. I think it is very right of him to desire to go, but oh! how hard it must be to all of you that he should be placed in any peril. . . .
Our neighbor Mr. Baring has just met with a frightful accident, driving over a bridge yesterday morning. The horse took fright at the barking of a dog, and threw him and the servant over the bridge into the stream which runs about six feet below and has a strong bottom. You would imagine such a thing would kill a man of over 90, but today he is better. It was several hours before he could be carried home on a board.
The Kings were all in church today looking very bad, except Ellen, who cannot help being happy in her handsome pleasant looking husband. Mrs. Henry King has either gone or is going to Summerville to stay with her father. I picked up Sally and begged her to let me carry her home. She looked so handsome, with a brilliant color in the right place, in spite of the scorching wind, and so charming as she always is. On Wednesday she goes to the Blakes and Thursday week to Columbia. We both regretted Lise s not being here to enjoy this delightful weather, so clear, cold, and bracing, one feels all the time like drinking great draughts of this delicious air. The pond and waterfall light up the dreary landscape. If the winter continues to be like the last fortnight, it must be a most charming climate. Dressing and undressing in the fireless bedrooms is the only disagreeable thing.
18 January 1863
. . . We have had such a great loss here, in the death of our Rector Mr. Reed. He was sick about a week, but no one imagined that much was the matter until the day that he died. The fatal symptoms appeared on Thursday morning, and he died in the afternoon. He is a great loss. He was so good and pure a man, and so admirable a preacher, the best I have ever heard. I mean the one whose preaching I have preferred, even I think to Mr. Gadsden s. 55 He had always delicate health, which makes people I think more spiritual minded (if it does not affect their nerves!), and he made one realize perpetually the nothingness of this present evil world, and the surpassing importance of preparing for the one to come. The funeral took place this morning after the service. Mr. Drayton 56 after a sermon from Mr. Hanckel said a few words about the peaceful deathbed which he had witnessed, but was too much agitated to say much and promised to give the congregation the history of his last hours next Sunday. Poor Mrs. Reed was away, and only arrived about 10 this morning, but had the happiness of seeing him, a calm and peaceful expression on his face, and then came to the church to see him laid in his grave.
We are anxious to hear about Wilmington and fear that Georgetown is in a perilous situation. When Papa last wrote, he said he had given up all idea of moving. It seems to me strange infatuation but there is nothing to be done. The attack on Charleston seems at last coming nearer. . . . We are having another very cold spell here. At past eight the thermometer stands at 20, and the church was very cold.
Alice speaks of Sally Rutledge at the Fort Pemberton ball looking very handsome. I wish some of the nice people would go out. There is so much round dancing, I fancy because society has fallen into bad hands. It is, no I won t say what I was going to! Is not this British order about the destruction of the Alabama 57 the meanest thing that has yet been done. For two great nations to make war on a single vessel, bah! I really think after this that the English officers in Charleston should be dropped.
24 January 1863
. . . Did you see in the paper a few days ago, an account of . . . tory outrages near Asheville? We hear that soldiers were sent after them. 20 were killed, and 30 are now prisoners, and will probably suffer death. Another band of them is in the mountains not very far from here, and soldiers are out after them. Steeny Huger 58 was very ill again last Monday night. He has hemorrhages from the nose, which threaten to carry him off, and is in a terrible state of weakness. The doctor thinks there is very little chance of his recovery. . . . Everyone here is just now very much interested in Mrs. Reed. She has nothing, but one of her husband s last desires was that she should bring up her children here amongst the people from whom he said he had received such unbounded kindness. Mr. Baring has given a very nice piece of land, and the congregation will probably build her a house, and see that she has an income. . . .
[written at top:] Steeny Huger died yesterday. The funeral takes place tomorrow.
8 February 1863
Think of our being snowed up at this exciting time! Not a mail for three days, and no prospect of one. The snow is about a foot and a half deep, and where drifted, lying in great banks. There it lies defiantly refusing to melt in spite of our strong desires. Of course there is no going out of the house, nor any communication with neighbors, but the mail failure is our great trouble. We are so restlessly anxious about affairs below. Our brothers must be engaged, I suppose, and the lives of so many others must be in peril. Do you think Ella would mind asking Mr. Rutledge if anything happens to Frank to telegraph to Mrs. J. J. Pringle Smith, Columbia. 59 We shall hear it so much sooner and more certainly in that way, and if he is wounded, we should want to go down immediately; we cannot think of anything besides this. Do tell me all you hear, for Alice never mentions public affairs. I long to know what troops we have to oppose the overwhelming numbers brought against us. I feel deeply dear Susan for your anxiety and for Ella s. . . . The thermometer was 4 degrees above zero at 10 yesterday morning! Yet in spite of the thermometer we do not suffer at all from cold, as there is no wind.
15 February 1863
We have been feeling so anxious about your Mother and have been longing for your next letter to tell us how she was. Tomorrow may bring it, though I will not be too sure of it. I have positively nothing to tell you. Day before yesterday I got out for the first time for over three weeks! And the roads are still in the most dreadful condition. Yesterday I went for Sophy Haskell, and deeply regretted it, for the clay was terrific, and the carriage almost broken by the violent jolts. Tomorrow Harry returns with her to [the de Choiseul] school. She is frantic to go, and I dare say it will do her good, tho Isabella finds it hard to part with her. . . . Whilst you are hearing all kinds of news in Columbia, people here are taken up with the difficulty of getting anything to eat and to wear. No beef to be killed, and no bacon or poultry to be bought! We have ordered a spinning wheel and weaving machine, and intend to manufacture cloth! . . .
1 March 1863
I hope you have had at Columbia as beautiful a day as we have had here. It has felt as if Spring and Summer might once more return, which the two dark stormy months just past seemed to render doubtful. I hope that March will go on in this lamb like manner. Yes I should like sunshine even if the Yankees must enjoy it too! We are very uncomfortable just now for fear that Cousin Izard may leave Flat Rock. He is thinking of getting some place near Pendleton [South Carolina] in which case he would sell here by April, as he has a very good offer. It would be a great blow to us, for we see so much of them and like them all so much. The place he thinks of getting is a very dreary one without neighbors, and he would remain there some years. However I hope he will decide against this plan. The news here is that the Count de Choiseul s elder brother has died, and the Count is now a Marquis. I do not know whether money accompanies the title. . . .
I suppose you heard of Cousin Rose 60 rescuing her confiscated New Port property from Mr. Chase! 61 and the Frederick Eustis doings with Mrs. Eustis house at New Port and the Lady s Island property. Cousin Izard thinks it dreadful to write to any Northern person! Cousin Matty Singleton 62 on receiving as a present two prs. of Yankee boots from Mrs. Van Buren 63 has put them aside refusing to wear them. . . .
11 May 1863
I did not mean to write to you tonight and have nothing to say, but my ambrotypes are to go tomorrow, and I must tell you about them. Hearing that the Gibbeses 64 were soon going down, I went there this afternoon, thinking I might not have another opportunity of sending. Cousin Lewis and Louisa will go tomorrow, one of them, it is not decided which, will take the ambrotypes. Cousin Lewis is to be one night in Columbia, and if he meets anyone to whom he can entrust them, he will do so. I beg that they be given to Mr. Irving 65 or you or Lissie, so if you hear of them floating about anywhere do claim them. . . .
Were you not sorry for the death of Pinckney Seabrook. 66 It will be a terrible loss to his family. The Father you know has very little mind, and the other sons are children. The Mother was wrapt up in him. We drove there after church yesterday but she was in bed. Mary Pinckney 67 came up today in consequence of the news. Alice says she was told repeatedly last winter that Willie Haskell, 68 Pinckney Seabrook and a young Munroe were more distinguished for their gallantry than any other Carolinians in Virginia, that their names were known everywhere. Pinckney was twice offered promotion for gallantry on the field of battle, but declined it preferring to remain with Willie Haskell. I do not know whether it was his sad death awaking so many sad recollections in overwhelming strength, but I have never before felt so dispirited about the war. It seems to stretch interminably before us, carrying off all the youths and worth of the Country. I can see nothing but desolate homes and broken hopes. We seem to make so little impression on the North, the men we kill are foreigners, and there are hundreds of thousands of more to fill their places, but in the midst of dark thoughts today, came my old consoler, The Lord God omnipotent reigneth. This is not chaos, but there is a rudder to the ship, and one infallible presides there. This is our first day without a fire and we are so glad that Summer is really here.
17 May 1863
. . . The Seabrooks had a last account of Pinckney s death. They had hoped until then. He was shot in the head and apparently killed instantly, on Sunday morning. They washed the blood off his face, brushed his hair, laid his clothes smoothly around him on the battlefield, marking the spot, so the family hope to have his body brought on. His last letter was written on Thursday, just as the men were collecting together to press the enemy back. He says to his Mother, Do not fear for me, I have no fear for myself. And Mary Pinckney told Alice that he had escaped hereto so wonderfully, that they really had no fear for him. Alice knew him very well, and liked him very much, and everything I have heard of him was so pleasant. Sending on his pay for his Sister s schooling, and for them to buy presents for themselves, and as soon as he heard of Mr. Reed s death he sent on something to be added to the fund for his widow. And last winter Alice heard so repeatedly of his gallantry. The price of victory. How well we all begin to understand the meaning of that phrase.
Poor Mary Manigault. 69 We went there a few days ago and found her in a state of great agitation, a very valuable servant had died very suddenly the night before, and her own special woman is dying of consumption. She is also expecting a battle in Tennessee, as the baggage has been ordered to the rear, and every preparation made for activity. . . . Every time I see Mary I am so struck by her wonderful improvement, both in character and in mind. There is something fine about her. I always see a diadem resting on the top of her head, her appearance is so regal. . . .
25 May 1863
We went to such a sad funeral yesterday, Pinckney Seabrook s, at 6 o clock in the afternoon. It was a very pretty as well as a very touching sight. Flags were draped over the open grave. The coffin was wrapped in a flag (in which it was buried), and besides a flat wreath at head and foot. On the raised part in the middle of the metallic coffin, they placed the laurel wreath, and cross of green leaves and white flowers which we sent there. When the grave was filled up they arranged it very prettily, standing the cross at the head, with the wreath at the foot of the cross, and covering the rest of the grave with branches and a wreath of bright flowers. All the family except the sick girl seemed to be there. When the coffin was lowered, and they were about covering it up, poor Mrs. Seabrook sprang forward to take a last look at all that remained on earth of her chief pride and joy. Her loss is indeed [illegible], and the strongest sympathy seems to be felt for her. Many persons present were excessively agitated. To all present it had happened or might happen soon. I have nothing to tell you of the family. Isabella is much better, since the warm weather began, but looks very wraith-like. Alice finds Flat Rock much more endurable than ever before, and we are all coming on in our usual hum-drum ways. . . .
1 June 1863
What a pleasure it was to me to find your letter as I came out of my room this morning. My dear Mama had laid it in a most conspicuous place on the table, and besides greeted me with the joyful intelligence that Vicksburg was not yet taken! It is so charming to have a chatty letter from you again, that is such a nice thing to women. After your letter I went to Cousin Georgie s and Mrs. Drayton s and had a morning full of it. Cousin Izard came in too, and we talked politics. You know I like and admire him very much. By the bye the President has gone to the West, so Mr. Memminger writes to his wife, but you have doubtless heard it ere this. There is a report in the neighborhood, said to have come from below, that we have not the men to hold Richmond, Vicksburg and Charleston, and therefore that the latter will be abandoned. Also that Beauregard declares that if another man is taken away he will resign.
Besides these reports there is some news about a hundred deserters all lurking around, and in consequence all the militia of the country has been ordered out, half at one time, to be relieved by the other half. They are to continue under arms until all the deserters are taken. Last Thursday it was reported that two of them were in a house near here. A sergeant and a few men were sent after them. When they approached the house the deserters fired, killing the sergeant, his men then fired, but were afraid that owing to the rain the guns had not gone off. The deserters then took to the woods, and the next day they were found a few hundred yards from the house, one dead, and the other dying. This morning I met two of the Henderson shopkeepers with their guns, looking highly delighted! Isabella has consequently ordered her pistol cleaned, and I heard Mama and herself this morning talking of the extreme pleasure it would give them to shoot a Yankee! If Burnside 70 does enter Tennessee, we may begin to look for a raid in this quarter.
Yesterday Dolly came here to church, looking very bright and rosy. She carried Alice back with her in the afternoon to spend a week. We miss her dreadfully. Something young is so pleasant, and Alice is now always so bright and chatty, that it is an immense addition to the household. . . . She says that she has had such a very charming winter that she is seasoned for many months at Flat Rock. . . .
I am surprised at your speaking of flippancy of manner and character being so common amongst young men nowadays. I think the men of the present time so infinitely superior to those of our day. It seems to me that young men were a very poor set. The times I suppose which have brought out so much that is noble have something to do with it, but also there seems to me a difference in nature. I do not remember a single young man for whom I felt the reverence and admiration which I feel now towards a large number of men. Alice (who I think an excellent judge of character!) tells me she is so much struck by the gravity of all the men seriously engaged in this war, and how could it be otherwise. They stand forever face to face with that unseen other world. The next day may carry them into Eternity. I remember at Weehaw long before Henry went to Virginia, the manly gravity with which he prepared, and put every affair in order, and said his last wishes, as if he was never more to return. Mary Pinckney tells Alice that when Charles Pinckney 71 went for Pinckney Seabrook s body, he followed the directions given, and found the grave under an apple tree, in lovely flowers. Dr. Frank Frost 72 had sodded the grave with his own hands, and put a headboard with his name on it. The body had been wrapped in a piece of india rubber cloth and they found it nine days after burial, as if he had just fallen asleep. No change had taken place. He lay in an attitude of perfect repose, dressed in his uniform with his sash round his waist. It was life like. In his pocket was found three poems which he always carried about with him, Bingen, Timrod s Carolina, and Echo and Ego. The latter I do not remember. Mary says that several wreaths and bunches of flowers were sent to deck the coffin, but Mr. Seabrook said he could not stand the sight of colored flowers. . . .
15 June 1863
Your letter was our first intimation that the Rutledges were here, and most provoking, one of our horses is sick so that we cannot go to see them, but I shall send there this afternoon to ask after them. Cousin Izard who has just been here thinks that they must have arrived on Saturday. It will be very delightful to see them again. Here came another interruption, a basket from Cousin Anne. Such delicious butter. We are not starving but living on bacon, rice and hominy. Those who can eat bacon. The unfortunate who can t, go without meat. I am in the latter class, which has so distressed Mamma, that she sacrificed two chickens. I felt quite overwhelmed, and said to Lang, How shall I be able to eat this chicken when I think of the dozens of eggs and broods of chickens I am devouring. Oh, said Lang smiling, Aunt Harry it is only a rooster. So that consoled me.
I am so very glad that you have Oliver back again and that he is looking well. From your saying nothing of the regiment being sent away, I am in hopes that it is going to be left in Carolina. As to the assurance of the flag of truce officers, I do not think they tally exactly with the raid on Georgia! The truth seems to be that the Yankees can do nothing but lie. I don t look upon them as having convictions of any sort. . . .
I have not been out for some weeks in consequence of the horse being sick. Our last visit was to the Seabrooks. Carry Pinckney 73 looked pale but very sweet. Something in her face put me in mind of Cousin Sally. Mary Pinckney was very sad. Dolly 74 writes to Alice that the deserters are getting quite dangerous in their neighborhood. As their servant was coming home with the mail at night three men sprung upon him and demanded his horse, and would have taken but for some reason I forget what. . . .
4 September 1863
Don t swear at seeing my hand-writing so often but I want to tell you about your letter. Here it is this afternoon, delightfully fresh and fragrant. You have indeed got the whip hand of the mail, and it is so much more delightful than to have it lingering on the way. I suspect you had better change your day, as Friday is a day of malign influence, and there may be some post office secret which detains them. Perhaps the clerk in Columbia is a jew! . . .
We had a long and pleasant visit from Mr. Rutledge this morning. He seemed out of spirits tho and thought our prospects very dark. He reported Burnside s Corps in possession of Knoxville and thought Georgia and Charleston going! So the news this afternoon, all so good, was a great relief to Mama. He told us also of the deserters going to Mr. Trenholm s 75 last night and stealing two valuable horses with saddles and bridles. They tried to get the Pinckney s also, but failed. We felt a little alarmed but Cousin Izard s arrival this afternoon has made us feel safe again. . . .
12 September 1863
. . . We were quite unprepared for any fighting at Sumter, as Mr. Rhett 76 had written to his wife that we were about evacuating it, and I suppose by this time it is evacuated. The taking of Anderson s flag is particularly delightful. The raising of it would have been no humiliation to us, but it is a humiliation to them that so spiteful a project has been prevented. As you say, Oh, for a victory in the west! A decisive victory! There have been many rumours here about East Tennessee, and some refugees with their negroes and household goods have actually passed here on their way to a place of greater safety! Should the Yankees gain an advantage over Bragg 77 and continue to hold East Tennessee, it will be time to get a little nervous about being here, for there is a government at Asheville, and two spies having really been in this neighborhood who can tell of a tolerably large number of negroes and disaffections and desertions. It would be very apt to provoke a raid.
You ask about our Columbia plan. It has quite died away. Papa has no money at present, but a large part of his last years crop, and his present crop, and rice is selling very high. He was in hopes of selling some as soon as he went down, but he is anxious (entre nous) to make a large present of money to some one, so that we cannot count on getting any. I mean enough for a move, and I do not think he can be induced to move the negroes so that at any moment we may lose everything. This is one of the things which presses most heavily on Mama, and I do not wonder, for it is a most serious thing to us all, as well as being a matter of strong feeling, for the negroes have been at Weehaw for generations, and the place has been owned by Mama s family for two hundred years, and we are all much attached to it. I do not allow myself to think of contingencies, but feel as Alice says that we are in the hands of providence, and can only pray that this cup may pass from us. Papa means to do all that is wisest kindest for us, but his imagination does not permit him to realize that Georgetown may be taken, and that in case Charleston falls, the coast must go, and when we beg him to think of these possibilities and the interests of his children, he only tells us that we can support ourselves very well. Alice and I can keep school c! You may imagine from what you have seen of your mother how hard all this is on a nervous person. Thank you for your sympathy about Mamma. She has certainly been better for the last few days. She only wants repose of mind to cure her. . . . The coming cold will I hope be the tonic she requires. . . .
I have found two such delightful volumes of sermons by William Archer Butler. They and Lang s letters occupy my reading hours. What changes come in life. Fancy my feelings if I had been told at 19 that at 35 I should be an ugly old maid, with sermons and latin for my principal diversions! And more over that I should be perfectly satisfied with my lot in life, and desire nothing of Heaven but a change in a few circumstances relating to other people. What an egotistical letter I am writing, and I have not asked what I wanted, that you would keep the ambrotypes of Henry until I can get some one to bring them to me. . . .
It is such a lovely, lovely day. . . . Susan that it is impossible to believe in any thing evil. Could the Yankees take Charleston on such a day! Lise says she has a conviction that the town will be saved by something a little short of a miracle! The iron clad fleet perhaps. . . . 9 waggons of refugees with negroes, cattle c. have passed through here to S. Ca. Asheville is crowded with refugees. Poor Mrs. Trenholm 78 is trembling for her husband.
19 September [1863]
I suppose you are having below something of this cold weather we have here. Last night as we shivered and listened to the wintry blasts, I thought of our poor soldiers in Georgia among the mountains and hoped that at least they were enjoying warm fires. Your letter yesterday was a great treat. Pray my dear don t think of ending your letters until it is absolutely necessary! There was a general cry of disappointment at there being no crossing! . . . 79
How interesting the times are, and how much seems to depend on the issues of the next few weeks. Lise says that she prays every night for the arrival of the iron clads. I should judge from the last European accounts in the Inquirer that they had not left G. Britain on the 1st September, and perfide albion seemed rather disposed to prevent their leaving. I feel as if the president s gleams of peace might be seen by N. years day, gleams of course, not reality, for some year or two yet. . . .
I have nothing to tell you of last week. Sally has spent it with the Blakes, and Lise has been here twice, once she only made us a horseback visit, but yesterday came in. She gets weekly stronger I think and in former spirits. . . . I think I told you that she wants to stay here the greater part, if not the whole of the winter, and I often fancy what a pretty winter scene it will make. The two seated in that charming little book room with a bright fire blazing on the hearth and from the sofa by the window such a lovely view with snow covered mountains in the distance. . . . We have had one day this week of marvelous beauty. I could do nothing but breath [ sic ] the delicious air, and watch the beautiful clouds floating about the deep blue sky. In spite of all the troubles and anxieties of these times, one can enjoy what nature offers us. Autumn gives such a buoyant feeling. Mama and I walk together every afternoon, and today we are going to see a new path which Cousin Izard has just cut to the church. 80 Punch 81 represents it as very beautiful, and as it is level, it will be much pleasanter than the road along which we usually take.
22 September [1863]
. . . At present the Yankees seem much nearer us than Charleston. There is some excitement about here, and I see in the Guardian that some foolish up country lady has been publishing to the world our entirely unprotected situation, the short distance which lies between the Yankees and ourselves and the admirable condition of the roads leading here! Louise 82 is beginning to tremble for a certain very valuable chest of plate which she has up here, and poor Mama thinks of burning homes and flying fugitives! A great many of the deserters have come in, and many others have come in response to the proclamation which addresses them as soldiers and absentees !
It is an Ethiopian fashion lately introduced to visit your dear friends and steal all their clothes when you go away. Our servants have lost almost all their warm clothing which had just been made up for the winter. The whites last touch is to steal horses. Caroline Pinckney some days ago received her riding horse from the Low Country. As it entered the gate a country man entered with it, and asked if she would sell it. She refused. Oh, said he, if you won t sell it, I ll steal it. For two nights she kept up two servants with loaded pistols, but that cannot go on forever, so the third day she sold it to Mr. Trenholm, who had lately two valuable horses stolen. The thief readily came and carried off the two carriage horses, but finding one too much emaciated to go fast, he turned it into a field, and carried off the other. Last night, twice two white men were found in our stable. We suppose of course to steal the horses. . . .
4 October 1863
Your letter gave us the first information about Uncle Tom. We did not know that he had been moved to Columbia. How sorry I am for Aunt Euretta. She seems overwhelmed with trouble just now, for we hear that Tom is very sick, and she in such a feeble state. We are very anxious to hear further news of her. Cousin Caroline 83 tells me that she wrote to her a short time ago and she sent her word that Euretta must answer her, for that she was too broken hearted to do so. Cousin Caroline looked very pale and dispirited yesterday. She seems to wish to go to Columbia, but says that Cousin Dan makes the difficulty. Like so many sick and nervous people, he half or entirely believes in subjugation, and thinks they ought not to spend any money as the Yankees will take away their property. She says she cannot make any impression by talking to him. You know that their Louisiana property is quite safe. . . .
Poor Cousin Caroline, she is so full of trouble. Cousin Dan s state is such a painful one. He suffers such terrible pain. He has lost the sight of one eye, and the other is threatened, so he lives in a dark room, unable to read, and those who read to him open the shutters so as to give a crack of light on the book. Yesterday he was in the parlour. Cousin Caroline had evidently had a very trying time in keeping up his spirits. There was another horse theft in the neighborhood last night. Cousin Mattie lost her horses and a mule. It is said that several men were engaged in it. Some stoned away several very fierce dogs that she keeps, whilst the others carried off the horses. Our turn must come soon, and it worries us, for our daily bread depends on them. We have to send for food, to send to the mill, and bring horse feed in the cart. How we should make out I cannot conceive. Two soldiers were seen near the stable twice the same night, and were making very suspicious inquiries of one of Mr. Baring s negroes. And there is nothing to be done. It is said that the magistrates are afraid of taking any measures to prevent the robberies for fear that their own will be taken. I suppose I have mentioned how many people have lost theirs.
About ten days ago there was a great excitement in the neighborhood, and the story goes that Mrs. Cuthbert 84 bought a pair of mules to escape with, and packed up all her valuables so as to go off at a moment s warning! She then seated herself by the road side and wept! Mrs. Trenholm passed by in her carriage and stopped to inquire the cause of distress. Oh! said she in her cheerful, kindly manner, it has not come to weeping yet. And she took her in and carried her to drive, which somewhat reassured her. Jones, the notorious Union man, who is said to have been within the Yankee lines and to have made arrangements for a raid here to destroy secessionists property has been arrested and carried to Richmond in irons. Lissie writes us a very kind letter about going to Columbia or Greenville, but the difficulties are too great, beginning with the want of the necessary money. (Monday: money is no longer a reason, Papa has just sent plenty). But these are all trifles not worth the telling, when all around is so much trouble and suffering.
Did I tell you of Campbell King. 85 He is so sick that Dr. King is going to move him his family to the Judge s house so as to be able to see him constantly. It is some brain difficulty caused by the concussion when he was wounded. It did not appear for some days. He gazes on vacancy [ sic ], with no thoughts passing through his mind. When spoken to he starts and answers rationally, rides and drives about, but when left alone or hearing voices is spasmed all over. The Drs. in town thought that some bone in the head must be broken, but Dr. King does not think so. He is evidently most anxious about him.
Louisa dined here today. She has gained several pounds and looks very blooming and handsome. She is to go down early next month to stay at a pine land near the plantation. The Dan Blakes are to go there also the 1st of December unless new developments prevent. I hear that Frederic 86 now fears that Charleston may be taken. . . .
Do tell me how Miss Pinckney is. 87 I hear that she is failing very fast, but one hears so many false things. Mama is not quite so well. The unsettled state of the country keeps her anxious, and the least anxiety throws her back, but still she is wonderfully better than she has been. I have heard again from Alice Prioleau. 88 . . . Alice says [she] sympathises with you (our Alice). She is sure from your speaking of the life being vapid that you are having headaches all the time.
October 1863
. . . The country is getting much more settled. The deserters have come in, in large numbers. Some of the horse thieves have been killed and two taken. A daring attempt was made to steal Mrs. Baring s silver a few evenings ago, just after supper, but I fancy it must have been some negro. . . .
4 November 1863
. . . We have had quite an exciting day. Capt. Boykin s Mounted Riflemen 89 passed through today. In spite of being State troops or reserves as I understood one of the officers, they are on their way to the warm springs. 90 They seem to think that William s Regiment would follow them. They are attached to it. Two of them came up to ask for some thing to eat. Punch rushed off the pony supposing they had come to impress horses. They were respectable men, with such good manners. We walked down to the gate to see the others resting, and invited several others to come to the house. Mama was horrified said, What will Isabella give them to eat? But I felt strong in the consciousness of a huge loaf of brown bread, bacon, sorghum molasses whiskey! which I had assisted to spread out before leaving the house. Punch flew up to the house and had three large baskets of apples brought down, which was enough for all the men present to have several. A great many talked to us and all had such good manners. Two or three young men at a time got round Alice, and such a gay and such a sparkling little conversation ensued, but all whom she saw had admirable manners. Only two took whiskey, upon which Alice remarked to the others, You don t like whiskey. The morals of the army must have changed entirely since the beginning of the war? There was a general laugh at this, altogether it was very pleasant. . . .
I had some thing else to tell you, oh yes, if there had been ever a moment s danger here, you know my stock of courage enough to know that I should have fled to Greenville with Mama papers. But it has never been any thing but rumours. The small foundation of fact was not enough even to alarm me. Isabella Alice have been afraid of my getting panicky but I disappointed their fears now all seems to have flown over. Dr. King told us yesterday that he had not sent off his silver nor thought of going, neither have the Walter Blakes. 91 . . .
3 December 1863
. . . We are so comfortable with an abundance of wood, corn, wheat and molasses! that we do not want to go, but fate is relentless! We have had cold weather here also. Great masses of ice on the waterfall, and the pond frozen over, so that there has been some skating, to the great delight of the boys, but today it is warm again, a brilliant sunshine, and a soft cold bracing wind from the mountains. . . .
Christmas Day 1863
A rather cloudy, very cold Christmas day, dearest Susan, and I have a budget of letters to write if my frozen mind and fingers will permit. [It] was the winter wild, when the Heaven born Child, 92 has been running in my head all the morning! . . .
We had a visit again yesterday from three of our friends, the Boykin Rangers, the fat lieutenant and two whom we had not known before. One of them extremely intelligent and quite pleasant. They told us quite a startling story of the state of things about here. Their account is that a conspiracy has been found all over this part of the country. The Yankees are the movers. The principal person concerned is a Mr. Hamilton of this state, a tory, who has been made a Col. in the Yankee service. He has got up a regiment of the tories and disaffected, by whom all the destruction is done. There are also 15 or 16 able bodied negroes who have joined them and swear they will lay down their lives for the cause!!! Christmas Eve the movement was to begin. All this information was derived from an intercepted letter, and the Boykin Rangers (who were quietly living at Greenville, and had actually bought the eggs for the Xmas egg nog and invited the young ladies to come and drink it) were suddenly ordered to report at once to Hendersonville, two miles from here, to protect the inhabitants about here. Of course we said all this was terribly alarming and received the assurance that we need fear no alarm. The Rangers would protect us, and the enemy should only reach us over their dead bodies etc.! I suppose there must be some foundation for the story, or the Rangers would not have been sent here so suddenly. In one of the adjoining counties the militia has refused the summons to come out and in another the camp of conscripts is said to be in open rebellion, but repossession of East Tennessee will set every thing right. . . .
By the last mail I had letters from Lise and Mr. Drayton, such a pleasant friendly one from the latter asking for Flat Rock news. I think it has done Lise good being at Belmont. 93 She has the quiet which her nerves require, and the balmy weather, sunshine and flowers which are so good for a weary spirit. I wonder if you feel the intense love which I do for that low country weather, atmosphere, and I was going to say scenery but the word sounds misplaced. The very thought of the low [lying] colored landscape sometimes flooded with sunshine, sometimes veiled in haze, stirs my heart and thoughts in a way that only one or two other ideas in the world can produce. . . .
I suppose you hear of the shell in St. Michael s churchyard, supposed to have gone through the coffin of a daughter of Mr. Wagner s, very close to the Rutledge and Pinckney graves.
15 February 1864
. . . I got your letter today and am much obliged for your trouble about the Confederate notes. We looked over our remaining ones and found we only had four bad ones. Of course we have no idea how we got them. Shopping up here is an unusual thing so they could not have come in change, but the person who transmits them from Greenville is not honest and it is very possible that he may have put them in. On one occasion the sum he sent was minus $100, but as he had given it to a gentleman to bring we said nothing, as he might have felt uncomfortable. On another occasion also a pair of shoes disappeared, only valuable at this time. . . .
Our coachman just from the plantation, gives us an account of things there, which has made the children frantic to get there. The garden full of flowers, plenty of sheep, pigs and turkies, warm weather. He says his master has given all the potatoes to the soldiers except one bank he keeps in case the family should go down! Oh! Miss Harry why don t you go down and be happy. Isabella has begun to attend to the garden, and for a few days has actually stayed there and seen after it all the morning. We assured her she will soon get stout hearted and red faced! At least if she can keep it up. I have never seen her so strong. . . .
29 February 1864
. . . There is a great deal of discomfort here about corn. The soldiers passing by have eaten up every thing, and I don t know what we are to do. Farmer says he will do what he can, but he is nearly cleaned out. The country is full of rumours. The coachman came from Henderson this morning and told us he heard from the blacksmith that the Yankees are ten miles from Asheville and Longstreet 94 is said to be at Greenville, Tenn., and retreating. I suppose he is on his way to Cumberland Gap. Cousin Georgie too sent us word yesterday that there was a raid going on in Cherokee City. You may have seen by the paper that the last got nearer to this place than to Asheville, within fifty miles I think. I suppose that they are making desperate efforts knowing their hold on Chattanooga is to be so slight. . . .
4 March 1864
. . . We have had quite an exciting day. A division of Cavalry passed by, 4 or 5,000 strong. Part of the morning we spent at the gate gazing at them, and the rest of the time entertained six who at various times straggled in. They were all Georgians and Alabamians, a motly [ sic ] looking crew. I did not wonder that the Yankees who habitually judge by the eye, despised their fighting powers before they tried them. The higher officers rode first. They uncovered as they passed Isabella and Alice, and one of them rode up, presented the respects of Gen. Morgan (I think not the hero), or Martin on the part of the brigade. All that came in were very pleasant. They say that Longstreet did retreat to the neighborhood of Greenville, afraid of his communications being interrupted by the Yankees, who had been reinforced. They believe that they are going to join Johnston. They had six canon [ sic ] and quite an artillery train. Certainly Southern men are born with the instincts of gentlemen. These looked very common, yet their voices were so gentle and their manners so courteous, and they talked with quick intelligence. One of them said Oh! how I should like to stay here a day or two and rest, in such a wistful manner. Mrs. Baring had 20 over there. Her meat was exhausted, and she had some quite amusing scenes with the men.
We are at present in a state of disagreeable corn uncertainty. Mr. Farmer sends us his word he cannot send us another ear! And what are we to do! As I tell Mama I have never heard of genteel people starving, so I suppose something will turn up, and we have sent to ask Mr. Farmer s advice on the subject. I hear that Dr. Hanckel will probably have to go down next week on this account. So many soldiers passing through have cleared the country of provisions. As we were looking at the soldiers an old man passed on his way from the mill and said I suppose you have come to see the cavalry ma am, and added It s a sad sight for us. They will leave us nothing to eat. We have just had such a kind note from Mr. Farmer, promising to do his best, and at any rate to divide his corn with us! . . .
Friday. Today the soldiers are busy impressing horses. Our coachman being warned, discreetly hurried home, instead of going to bring Harry back. Mr. Trenholm also rushed home on hearing it. Only think of their having carried off his corn, which he had been refusing to sell to the neighborhood at any price. All kinds of soldiers anecdotes are going the rounds. Only think of Mr. Lowndes 95 locking up his gate and putting all his corn in his daughter Caroline s room, at the risk of breaking through the ceiling, whilst every one else was entertaining all who claimed their hospitality. One of the soldiers seeing him exclaimed Huddy daddy, why are you not in the war. And another addressed him as gills, (referring to his upright collar). It is said 4,000 will pass by tomorrow.
I will enclose $80 which I think will be enough for the dresses I asked you for. If not take some of Lizzies. I don t send more at once, because all our plans are so uncertain, and we have only drafts in the house. My dear I cannot sufficiently thank you for your kindness and trouble.
10 March 1864
. . . Isabella says I must give you the receipt for a very economical and favorite dish, potato soup, but let me warn you on its demoralizing effect. It is but disguised hot water, but like vice, though first abhorred on that account, its victims finally end by preferring it to anything else. Alice dined out the other day and had all kinds of delicious things to eat, but she confessed to having given a sigh to potato soup, and declared she so long had been debarred from luxuries she found she could no longer enjoy them! But to the receipt.

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