1861: Kate (Pinckard) Greenleaf to Margaret St. Clair Pinckard

How Kate and her husband Alvin might have looked at the time of their wedding in 1855.

This letter was written by Katherine (“Kate”) Pinckard (1835-1905), the daughter of Dr. Thomas Butler Pinckard (1793-1860)—a grandnephew of President James Monroe—and his first wife, Catherine Lawrence Vance (1804-1839) of Lexington, Kentucky. After Kate’s mother died, her father married Mary Rothram Harper (1810-1900). Kate was married to Alvin Choate Greenleaf (1829-1866) in January 1855. By 1861 when this letter was written, the couple had one child, Katherine St. Clair Greenleaf (1856-1923). Alvin was the son of Edward Greenleaf (1802-1873) and Mary Jane Allen (1808-1887) who lived near Indianapolis in Marion county, Indiana, where this letter was penned in April 1861.

Kate wrote the letter to her sister, Margaret St. Clair Pinckard (1832-1919) who married James Granville Cecil (1808-1881) in Jefferson county, Kentucky in February 1868.


Out at Mrs. Greenleaf’s
April 23, [1861]

My Darling Sister,

I received your most anxiously looked for letter today. Oh how thankful I am you are not here. Never in my life put together did I ever suffer such exquisite torture as I have since the news from Fort Sumter came; for I am living among a set of hungry wolves—I can call them nothing better, who are actually thirsting for the blood of those who are dearer to me than all the world beside, and they all take the greatest delight in letting me know the state of their feelings and insulting me in every possible way. I have prayed most earnestly that Christian forbearance and fortitude might be given me to endure in silence, and feel it was my my Heavenly Father who. was trying me for my good, and so far He has mercifully vouchsafed to hear me and I have with His gracious help been enabled to bear them. But I feel as if it will kill me to have to live so much longer—flesh and blood can’t bear it.

The people have gone perfectly mad. I never imagined savages could be so blood thirsty—Cousin Annie and Will as bad, if not worse than any. All our relations and all the Greenleafs and Espys. So you see, I am in the midst of a hornet’s nest and the worst of it is, here I have to stay, maybe all summer, though I would far rather die this minute if it is God’s will. I am afraid [my husband] Alvin is not doing much in Memphis. I have almost given up all hope of ever having a home anyplace in this world. I would not have one here for I can never live among my enemies and be happy of course, and all whom I once caed for here have taken every means to let me know they stood in that position.

I wrote you and Will not long since and told you Mr. Stringfellow was going as Chaplain with the Greys from here. Cousin Annie told me so. But I am happy to say there was no truth in it. I was there Saturday. He said he expected they would have to leave here, as anyone would be in danger of their life who was known to have any sympathy with the South and he is a true Southerner in every feeling. Oh! it would make the blood boil in your very veins to hear some of them talk. Others are so deplorably ignorant, it only awakens a feeling of perfect contempt. No one is allowed to even wish for peace without danger of being mobbed and if we dare say a word in favor of the South, we are to be hung. There are said to be 9,000 men (I cannot call them soldiers) here now encamped on the fairgrounds and I have heard several say they never in their lives saw such a Godless set of men congregated together. You know they ran the first battle in the Mexican War, but they can bluster and braggard. That is about as much as the people here know about bravery. They have no idea of true, manly courage. The Southerners have that yet to teach them. May the lesson be one they will never forget.

I feel when the struggle comes, I must be with you all down there for if you suffer, I must suffer. And if needs be, die with you. The South has many warm hearts here beating with love and sympathy for her, but they can do nothing but offer up their prayers which in this time of trouble, is our only resource—and a dear one it is.

I went to Mrs. Stewart’s the other day and had a good talk. I just feel like going right to see everyone I hear favors the South, for my heart goes right out to them. Someone gave Katie a Union flag the other day and I told her at first she should not have it, but she begged so hard and I could not explain to her then why I did not wish her to carry it, so I let her have it. As we were going home, she was running along before me and I stopped to speak to Nettie Stewart. I noticed some lady stop Katie and talk to her for some time and when I came up with her, I asked her what the lady said to her. She says, “So little girl, you are for the Union, are you?” “No ma’am,” says Katie, “I am for Bell. My mamma said I should not carry this flag at first, but a little girl gave it to me and I begged her to let me keep it, but I am a Southerner.” “I ain’t for Lincoln,” she always says whenever she hears his name mentioned.

I wrote Uncle Ferd and Will on the 14th and you and Will again on the 18th. I hope dear Will and all I love so dearly will belong to the Home Guard. I have written this in such haste and such a miserable pen, I am afraid you can’t read it, but I am almost crazy so you must make allowances. Katie is very well. I am afraid you will never get it, but hope you may. I shall try and get away from here if I have to walk. With a heart full of love to all you dear ones. I am your loving sister, — Kate

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