TALIAFERRO – Civil War Letter of General William Booth Taliaferro

Warner Throckmorton Taliaferro, Sr., lived with Judge and Susan Wellford in
Richmond while he was serving in the State Senate following the Civil War. He was there
when he received a very special letter from his son, Gen. William Booth Taliaferro,
describing the confusion in Gloucester after the war during the early years of
reconstruction. The letter is included in papers donated by the family to the Virginia
Historical Society.

Dunham Mafsie Feby 12th 1866

Gen William Booth Taliaferro_HeadMy Dear Father,

I have no excuse for not writing you, none, none for I should have written many times and I have commenced several letters and thrown them aside because I was too inert to finish them. These sad times seem to have made me supremely lazy. Every thing around me is so desolate, every thing so going to decay, every body I meet so despairing so hopelefs and without any future, that
I can not escape the contagion produced by things animate and inanimate, and drift along with the current into hopelefs idlenefs. I fear most of our people are like myself, so appalled at the total
shipwreck of their affairs that they do not know where to turn or where to begin to repair damage,
and so fold their hands and do nothing. I think there was much more depression manifested at the
Ct House on Monday and Saturday than I have ever seen yet. The action of our Yankee masters too, has of late added much to it. You have heard of their seizing the records in certain cases of felony because the parties were Union men, & their refusal to allow them to be tried by our courts. And the conduct of the Freed men agent here has been so arbitrary and so harrassing that we can never know where we stand with relation to the Negroes, and whether we make contracts or not.

I am too much rejoiced that you are removed from the sad & saddening influences which surround us here, and that you have the excitements of a more occupied life and the pleasure which the responsibility of your situation at this crisis produces. I have read every paper I could procure since you left home, and I have kept pace as far as I could with your legislative career, and have particularly scrutinised your votes, and I can say for myself and, I believe, I can say in your constituents that in no single case would I have had you to have voted otherwise than as you did. I wish you would send some of the papers containing notice of your speech on the negro question to some of our people. I have not been able to see any of them myself yet. Ned, who spent a few days with us, says he heard it talked of in Williamsburg, but he was unable to see the paper. I have been most anxious to visit Richmond during the session for I do particularly desire to see you in your seat in the Senate, but I fear that will be impossible as my horse is too poor to ride to Richmond. I have not a dollar in the world to go any other way.

I shipped my wheat crop to Baltimore yesterday in order to purchase a bbl of flour. It was exactly nine bushels, seven having been stolen or eaten by the rats. I have never yet been able to get a fence around my wheat field, and fear I will not. I have Oliver, who has performed all his duties so far as known faithfully & well. He has supplied me with wood & I have had a plenty of fire all the winter. Little can be done on the farm and the country is under water and has been during the entire winter.

Jam and Old Parrot are to cultivate on shares, but I can not procure any real labour and fear I shall make no corn next year. Old Mr. Anderson has not yet ploughed a furrow or cut a rail, and I do not believe he and his two sons will make a single bbl of corn , but simply live in my house and fish & oyster. I shall be compelled to plant my last year corn field again this year in corn as I have no other fence on my land and even that in bad order. Still I believe I would oppose a fence law as it is just as easy to enclose the corn field as to enclose a pasture. I am very glad that you disposed of that embarrassing question as you did. The feeling of our people is certainly averse to a fence law, whilst I believe other parts of your district are in favor of it.

I am very uneasy about the fascy (?). There has been no development of it among my horses or mules, but it is all over the County, several cases at the CtHo and I fear it will kill many animals for us. The severe winter & the quantity of rain with the absence of forage has put an end to a number of cattle already. I have lost none yet and hope to save all. Three of yours have perished. I will urge your people to do the best to take care of them, but there is little provender. I think all at Elmington (Burgh Westra) will do well as there is great deal of grafs on the fields there. They look in good order.

My women Sarah & Pet left me on the first of Jany, and we could not procure a cook or washer for ten days. Sally1 had to cook, which she did very cheerfully, and I made up the fires & cleaned up the rooms. Some people have not procured servants yet. There is no one white or black at Cousin Anne’s yet, in the house or on the farm. I have Sams wife Jane and her daughter, and we
are very well satisfied.

I have seen a good deal of Tom & Hally lately. They and the children are well. Tom is getting along about as well as any body else. Phil is doing something that pays now and then and a good deal that does not pay always.2 He is well and interested in his house and garden and with pet schemes as always. The children go to school on tomorrow, Mrs. Wyatt having returned. Sally has gone to the Church to assist in taking down the decorations which were put up at Christmas. The Cockes are very much interested in the choir and there is a famous practicing every Saturday at different houses in the neighborhood. It is really a great addition to the Church services as all the chants are regularly performed.

There was to have been a very lazy (?-hole in paper) dancing party at Mr. Tabb’s and there actually was a very elegant entertainment at which thirty persons were present, but on the evening last Thursday we had the most terrible storm of the season and the wonder is so many reached there. I started and turned back. Sally, Leah & Jimmy were there as they went in the morning, Sally having consented to matronize the affair. I have been much pleased to learn that you were getting on so comfortably at Sue’s. & all – wish I could see you all. It would be a great treat and a great relief to me.

God Blefs you
My dear Father. My love to
My Mother sister & Bevy & Fanny and believe me ever affly yours
Sally & the Children send love to all

Oliver desires me to say to his daughter that they are all well save Milly who is a little indisposed
and he hopes she (his daughter) will behave herself and remember her mother’s admonitions.

(Note across the top of the page in pencil): Capt Williams is getting on quite well. He wishes to know
if you can sell him an odd ox.