1861-63: Catharine (Pinckard) Greenleaf to Margaret St. Clair Pinckard

How Kate & Alvin might have looked (Will Griffing Collection)

These letters were written by Catharine (“Kate”) Pinckard (1834-1905), the daughter of Dr. Thomas Butler Pinckard (1793-1860) and Catharine Lawrence Vance (1804-1839). Kate was the wife of Alvin Choate Greenleaf (1829-1866) of Tennessee. She and Alvin were married in Indianapolis in January 1855 and they had three children, Catherine (“Katie”) St. Clair Greenleaf (1856-Aft. 1861), Annie Helm Greenleaf (1858-1860), and Margaret Pinckard Greenleaf (1864-Ukn). Kate’s father—a native of Virginia—was a physician who practiced medicine in Lawrenceburg, Indiana, in New Orleans, Louisiana, and finally in Lexington, Kentucky, where he died in 1860.

From the 1858 Indianapolis City Directory we learn that Alvin worked for the Greenleaf & Brown City Foundry & Machine Shop located at 93 South Pennsylvania. The firm was established by Alvin’s father, Edward Greenleaf (1802-1873) who came to Indianapolis in the late 1840s from Cincinnati, having previously lived for several years in Bolivar, Tennessee. The family became famous for inventing and manufacturing the “turntables” upon which railroad cars were turned. However, the Civil War caused a schism in the Greenleaf family though Kate does not speak of it in her letters. In fact, Alvin’s brother, Clement Allen Greenleaf enlisted in Co. A, 11th Indiana Infantry, serving under Gen. Lew Wallace.

At the time Kate wrote the first letter datelined from Indianapolis on 4 August 1861, she and Alvin resided at 114 E. Vermont Street—a boarding house near the center of the city.

Sometime during the Civil War, the Kate and Alvin Greenleaf left Indiana and lived in Memphis, Tennessee, where we learn from the second letter that he ran a livery business for a time and then went into the cotton commission business. He must have been living in Cincinnati by late 1864, however, as I found a letter in the national archives written by Hon. Green Clay Smith, datelined from Washington D. C. on 23 January 1865 to Secretary of War Edwin Stanton which read: “I have been informed that one Mr. Alvin C. Greenleaf of Kentucky is now confined in the old Capitol Prison and was arrested and brought here from Cincinnati without having committed any offense. I have also been informed that the papers in his case are now on file in some branch of your department. Will you do me the kindness to have the case examined and let me know the facts. His family are one of the most estimate and his wife writes me imploringly & I have promised to do for her what I can. I apprehend it is a case of personal pique.” The letter is docketed on the reverse with a statement that reads: “Respectfully returned and report that this prisoner is charged with dealing in & passing counterfeit government securities & notes, & is under the control of the Solicitor of the Treasury Department.”

Kate wrote the letters to her yet unmarried sister, Margaret St. Clair Pinckard (1832-1919) of Lexington, Kentucky. Margaret (“Mag”) married James Granville Cecil (1808-1881) of Danville, Kentucky, in February 1868.

Letter 1

Addressed to Mis Margaret st. C. Pinckard, Care of Mr. John Lyle, Lexington, Kentucky

Indianapolis, [Indiana]
August 4th 1861

My Dearest Mag,

At the risk of melting before I get through, I commence this letter for it has now been a week since I received yours, and I wrote Mary the same day. I never, never experienced such hot weather before, it seems to me; though I suppose I have, but we have had such a delightfully cool summer until the last week that it has spoilt us, and we are complaining terribly here. The thermometer stood at a hundred in the shade yesterday and today it is even warmer. I have not been able to do much sewing on account of the excessive heat, so that my dress is not made yet, though it is commenced, and I will finish it this week. I have made Katie’s buff and it looks very sweet. Am going to trim the ruffles with scarlet crocheted braid. I took her to Dr. [Theophilus] Parvin last week for him to prescribe as I thought she might have worms, but she did not, though she took the medicine he gave. She seems very well but has so little appetite. I get her milk every day right fresh from the cow but she drinks very little generally.

I have not heard from Alvin yet so of course am not thinking much of going there for the present at any rate.

I have more and more hope for the South every day. There is a great revulsion of feeling taking place here among the Democrats who are becoming daily more disgusted with the [Lincoln] Administration and more suspicious of the republican Party. How can Kentuckians be so blinded to their own best interest as for a moment to think of upholding a power which was the first to raise its voice in favor of disunion and had for its watchword, and has yet, “No union with slave holders.” The republicans are truly traitors and as such they will meet their reward. I feel as sure God’s vengeance will yet overtake them in their wickedness as I am that He still reigns supreme and has declared “vengeance is mine, and I will repay.” I do hope and pray the South may act purely on the defensive in this terrible war. If they will, I believe God will be with them, and yet give them the victory. He has already showed them many signal favors, which I rejoice to see they acknowledge and return thanks for as coming from His hand. May that spirit of faith and confidence in His mercy increase in them, as their enemies become more malignant and bloodthirsty and the dark waves of trouble roll more fiercely around them. May they put their whole trust in Him and He will never desert them but the clouds which now seem so fearful will break with blessings on their heads and this terrible war may yet usher in a happier state of things when men may be brought to acknowledge the Lord God their God, and living as His children, fear not what the world may do.

Tell Uncle Philip I received the fifty dollars in gold and am much obliged. Give my love to sis and all of the there, Delia included, Ma and all friends who enquire. If you get any letters from the South, please send them over and I will do the same if I get any. Did you see [Alexander] Stephen’s speech at Augusta, Georgia? It is perfectly splendid. Charlie Stewart and Mr. Gale always bring me anything they see copied from a Southern paper. If you have Dr. Palmer’s and Dr. Leacock’s sermons, please cut them out and enclose in an envelope like a letter. I want to see them so much. I never see a Southern paper now.

How does Mary look now? Is she getting any flesh on her bones since she went out to Aunt Janes? I hope she ain’t worrying yet about this war for it will do no good if she puts herself to death and we will have to learn to look things calmly in the face for the terrors have but commenced.

I was interrupted here last night by one of the gentlemen boarders—a Republican—coming into the parlor talking about this trouble. I wish some of the Unionists there could have heard him. He said this war was bound to abolish slavery forever and for that reason, God must be with their party and he “should rather every man, woman, and child in the South and all that sympathized with them in the North, should be butchered than our glorious government should be overthrown.” Just a piece from Cincinnati Enquirer to show you the intolerant spirit which prevails. I would send Stephens’ speech but Mr. Gale wanted it.

Don’t Marie write you? Kiss Mary and yourself for me and Katie and give a great deal of love to Aunt Jane, Uncle John, Aunt Susan, and all friends. All relations are well. Jennie expects to be sick every day. I don’t see much of any of the, Write soon. Your loving sister, — Kate

August 4th

My dearest Minnie and Maggie,

I send you two kisses and tell you thank you for all the nice present you sent me and please tell me where my dear Uncle Will is and Uncle Hal> and kiss them for me five times when you see them. I ain’t forgot how I used to love them and you too. I love you all so much and Aunt Jane too. Tell her I ain’t forgotten her in my prayer. I say Aunt Jane and Uncle John every night. I want to see you both so bad, I would just give anything I have. Mama put my pretty buff dress on me this morning to wear to Sunday school. She made it with a flounce round the bottom but she did not make it high neck. It is too warm.

I went with Mama to Mary Stewarts and stayed all night and all day yesterday and we had such a nice time. Played under the nice shady tree and had our dolls and a nice party. And one morning Mollie Stringfellow come for me and Mama let me go home with her and I stayed till Momma come for me after supper and I rode in the little wagon with the prettiest little goat hitched to it and he pulled me so nice.

Katie Noble has gone to Crawfordsville but I have a right nice time here for I have Lizzie Anderson to play with. I can just open the back gate and go right in there but I have to ask Mama though. Mrs. Gale made me a pretty little flag and Mr. Gale brought me a pretty little thimble. Ask Monroe if he knows how to read yet and if he sees any soldiers there. I see plenty most every day. I send Monroe two kisses and Aunt Annie & Uncle Philip and cousin Sis two. And how big is the baby? And is it pretty as my sweet little sister was?

Please to excuse the ugly blot on this. Mama don’t know how it got on and she is so warm she can’t write it over. Tell Aunt Martha I wish I was there to play with the in the nice big yard. Give my love to Aunt Susan and tell her I ain’t forgot her either. And to sweet Delia too. I love her. Kiss each other for me. Your little niece, — Katie Greenleaf

Letter 2

Memphis, [Tennessee]
December 16th 1863

Dearest Mag,

Your letter of the 28th was received several days since and should have been answered sooner but I just have not had the heart to do anything. It seems to me I never felt so low-spirited before in my life. All seems dark around us here—poor, crushed, humbled people that we are completely in the power of tyrants. We know not what moment even our lives safe. As to property, no matter how hard a man works for it or how honestly he obtains it, military necessity is sufficient reason to wrest it all from him and then call upon him and if he does not answer the call, force him to fight for the government which affords him such protection.

You will not be surprised after this prelude when I tell you Alvin has had almost everything he possessed taken from him in the last week, not for any fault he had committed but simply because the government had need of them and would pay of course for all it took in what was much better than gold—government vouchers, a little piece of paper saying six months after the restoration of peace when you can prove your loyalty. you shall receive so much. I am thankful I am not a man. I could never have borne what Alvin has had to, but I am truly thankful he can. Patience has almost had its perfect work in him. If they would only leave me, my husband and child, gladly—willingly—would I give up all else that I have for as long as he is spared to us and has his health, we will never want. I know he has strong hopes of getting exempted on account of his arm.

Thursday morning, December 17th

I have just written thus far yesterday evening when Stewart McMullen, who is with us now, came home with the joyful news that he & Alvin were both exempted—he on account of bad health, and Alvin on account of his arm. I could have cried for joy. To think that arm which I have grieved over so much should have proved such a blessing disguise. My spirits from being below zero have gone almost up to boiling point and I don’t believe I even hate the Yankees.

Well, I will try and write you about something else now. Katie is well and improving very fast in her reading and spelling. Alvin found a little orphan boy someplace the other day who had no home and brought him out here with him and Katie is taking great interest in teaching him. He is sitting by me now having his lesson which has made me make several mistakes.

Alvin told me last night he was going up in February and take Katie and me with him. As they have taken all his horses, he is going to open a cotton commission house in the same building he used for a stable, which he owns himself. Two wealthy men from Chicago are going in with him. They have a large Commission House in Chicago and this will be a branch.

I have not heard from Mary since I wrote you last which was about two weeks since. In the letter, I enclosed two dollars to buy a doll head for Katie. i suppose Janie will not come down this winter as her husband is likely out of business if he has not left for the house he was clerking in has been closed by military orders for the last month. I don’t know how she could have heard we were coming up in December. I expect her husband must have invented it.

It is bitter cold this morning. Snowing a little, or trying to, but we have had so much mild weather we must expect some cold now/ I have been busy for the last week dressing Katie’s dolls for Christmas—quite an undertaking it has proved to be for she has seven. She is almost crazy to see the one you have dressed but I am afraid she will have to wait for that pleasure till she goes up there for I do not believe you will have an opportunity to send it to her. I will send you the measure of her skirt in this and I know you will be surprised when you see it—she is growing so fast. Stewart has been with us for the last two weeks. He came to get a situation with Alvin. I expect he will send him down the river to buy cotton for him.

Did you receive a letter from Laura McMillen dated Knoxville? I had one from her not long since and she said she had written me to Memphis several times [but] received no answer and so concluded that I had left here. She said she then wrote to you at Lexington to know where I was.

Alvin weighs two hundred and four pounds now. What shall I do with him to keep him from getting so fat? He says the more trouble he has the fatter he gets. And it does really seem to be so. He has about made up his mind to settle in Kentucky but will have to get something ahead first, for it will take a good round sum to buy a nice farm there. I am glad to hear Ma is doing so well and Aunt Annie must be making money too with her house full of boarders.

I have had several applications but Alvin has a perfect horror of boarding or taking boarders so I have rejected them all. Well, I must close now hoping to hear from you very soon. With warmest love to Aunt Jane & Susan, Uncle John, Aunt Annie, Sis and Ma, and baskets to you in which Alvin and Katie join me.

I am your loving, — Kate

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