1856: William Monroe Pinckard to Thomas Butler Pinckard

This letter was written by William (“Will”) Monroe Pinckard (1837-18xx), the son of Dr. Thomas Butler Pinckard (1793-1860) and his first wife, Catherine Lawrence Vance (1804-1839) of Lexington, Kentucky.

During the Civil War, Will volunteered as a cannoneer in the Washington Artillery of New Orleans. His muster records indicate that he was present for all of the battles of the unit in 1864 and 1865. He mustered out of the service in April 1865.

Will’s letter includes a description of his efforts to sell a slave named Bob in 1856.


Addressed to Dr. T. B. Pinckard, Lexington, Kentucky

New Orleans [Louisiana]
March 10th 1856

My Dear Father,

I received your affectionate letter a few days since and did not intend to answer it until I could inform you of the sale of Bob. But it is rather doubtful when he will be sold. I thought I would just write you a few lines now. Since you left, I have tried constantly to sell Bob, have taken several persons round to look at him, but none would offer anything for him. I have taken him to [Joseph A.] Beard when he was selling fifty or more slaves at auction, but he finally said he could get nothing for him. So last Saturday as I saw L. Carman & Co. was going to sell a lot of slaves, I took Bob around to him, limiting him to $600.

After the sale was over, I found he had sold Bob for exactly $600 but the man who bought him was to have him examined and said he would let me know this morning whether he would take him. So this morning I went round and found he would not take him as he said Bob was a “dirt eater” 1 and there was a malformation in his ribs—one leg was larger than the other, &c. So he is still on hand but I will continue to do my best to dispose of him. He is still at “Payne, Steele & Co.” who find employment for & board him.

Joseph A. Beard, Auctioneer, kept his office at 45 Magazine Street in New Orleans

I saw Dr. Smith a few days ago since. He said all were well at the “Pass” [Pass Christian, Harrison county, Miss.], & asked to be remembered to you. He thinks Mr. Toulement will still give the $4,000 and Uncle Ferd & Mr. Harrison say they would by all means advise you to sell immediately. Uncle Ferd says Mr. Harrison is of opinion that it is the best offer you will ever get and told him moreover you had better not delay longer but write to Mr. Sturges and advise him to sell while he can or it might prove to be like Bob—rather hard to get rid of. Most persons seem to be of the same opinion.

In your letter you ask “whether I get any salary?” Yes sir, it amounts to fifty or sixty dollars per month. I always draw money when I want. So far my board has cost me nothing as Aunt Sue would not let me pay. But I don’t intend to stand this any longer as I like to feel independent and I feel able to pay. They have all been very kind to me and I am very much pleased with my situation. I have been invited to some very pleasant parties and have made some very pleasant acquaintances.

I expect you will be surprised to learn Miss Mary Creath is to be married on the 15th of March to a Mr. Wassielle who is a cotton planter on Joe’s Bayou. He has been courting her for the last two or three years and was refused last winter. But there is nothing like perseverance. Dr. Follaine arrived here on Tuesday last and delivered his letter of introduction to Uncle Ferd. In the evening we called on him but he was out. Only saw his lady. He thinks I believe of spending his summer at the pass. Uncle Ferd is very well and as busy as can be. He comes to Uncle Munroe’s about once or twice a month—is doing a large business. I was very sorry indeed to hear of Uncle Philip’s ill fortune. Hope they will not have to give up their house. It seems so hard at this time of life to have to struggle for a living after toiling for so many years. Did Uncle Philip have to give up his tan yard & place in Lincoln?

I have a long letter from Tom today. It contained no news but said they were all well. We have quite a severe winter here but for the past two or three weeks we have had some real spring weather. I think there were a great many orange trees destroyed by the cold. Don’t know how ours have fared.

I believe Maj. Garland was an acquaintance of yours. I sent you the newspapers giving an account of his defaulting the New Orleans Treasury and trying to make his escape. He is now in the Paris Prison awaiting his trial. It is wonderful what men will do for money.

[William Makepeace] Thackeray—the great English author—is now among us delivering a course of lectures. Subject—the “four Georges of England, their courts, &c.” I will go tomorrow evening. The city is full with strangers and has been all winter. 2

I have been very well. Please remember me to Mam Uncle Philip, Aunt Armenia and all relations & write soon to your devoted son, — Will

P. S. Have you seen any of Mr. Christian’s family? I would like to hear from them.

1 “Dirt eating” or “geophagia” was a practice brought to the US by African slaves. I’ll refer readers to a sounder head than mine (see Geophagia) but suffice it to say that many slave owners avoided purchasing slaves known to eat dirt because they believed it made them more vulnerable to disease.

2 Thackeray’s lectures across the south from Savannah to New Orleans were not particularly lucrative. “I wish I had gone to Havana instead of peddling about the petty town in Georgia &c. where I did little more than pay my expenses,” he wrote a friend. [From Augusta to Columbus: Thackeray’s Experiences in Georgia, 1853 ad 1856, by Jane Lightcap Brown.]

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