1862: Susan Gibbs (Boone) DeSaussure to Sarah Gibbes (DeSaussure) Elliott

Susan Gibbs (Boone) DeSaussure’s Monument in the Circular Congregational Church Burying Ground in Charleston, SC

The following letter was written by 73 year-old Susan Gibbes (Boone) DeSaussure (1789-1864), the wife of Henry Alexander DeSaussure (1788-1865)—a prominent attorney in Charleston, South Carolina. She wrote the letter to her daughter Sarah Gibbes (DeSaussure) Elliott (1811-1891) who was married to her second husband, Stephen Elliott (1804-1866). Stephen Elliott was an 1824 graduate of Harvard. He was a planter for awhile and then turned to the ministry. He was ordained an Episcopal priest in 1836 and was the rector at St. Peter’s in Charleston for a time. He devoted himself to missionary work among the Negroes and built a church for them on the Combahee River called Christ Chapel. 

Several of Stephen Elliott’s sons served in the Confederate army during the Civil War: Stephen Elliott, Jr. (1830-1866), was Captain of the Beaufort Volunteer Artillery. In 1863, he was promoted Major, then Colonel and was chosen by General Beauregard to command Fort Sumter in Charleston Harbor. Transferred to Petersburg, Virginia, he was promoted Brigadier General in 1864. He was severely wounded in the Battle of the Crater and after his recovering he participated in actions at Averysboro and Bentonville, in which he was again badly wounded. William Elliott (1838-1907), joined the Confederate Army and served the entire war, attaining the rank of Lieutenant Colonel. Middleton Stuart Elliott (1841-1921) was an 1862 graduate of the Citadel. Finally, Henry (“Hal”) DeSaussure Elliott (1848-1907) must have served at war’s end.


Addressed to Mrs. Stephen Elliott, Camden, South Carolina

Charleston [South Carolina]
April 7, 1862

I am sorry, my beloved daughter, that a week has elapsed since you left us and no one has written to you, though all knew your anxiety to hear from us. But truly kind friends are a continuous interruption to all domestic employments. I have been wishing to write for some days but have not been able to do so. The delay gives me an opportunity of tell you Mr. Elliott arrived safely and comfortably at half past 3 and we are all glad, my dear daughter, to learn of your own and the family’s health. Hope little Hal will soon be better though I do not think the spring is ever very favorable to children’s health—the changes are so frequent that they are heated today and chilled tomorrow.

I am happy to tell you that our dear invalid is better and I hope will not be thrown back by any untoward event. Her exclusion from friends has certainly been an advantage to her. Today is the 4th day she has been without fever and she moves about her room with more strength and with more interest in her employments but with no increase of appetite. Your fresh eggs will be a treat to her for I have just run out.

The unsettled state of the country makes her (and myself also, I must confess) unwilling to be separated from the family. We feel that whatever is the fate of one, must be the fate of all.

— Susan Gibbs (Boone) DeSaussure, Charleston, 7 April 1862

Elizabeth Jenkins has given Fan a very kind invitation [but] I do not think we shall go into the country. The unsettled state of the country makes her (and myself also, I must confess) unwilling to be separated from the family. We feel that whatever is the fate of one, must be the fate of all. But we have not yet received orders to quit and the general opinion is that our enemies will quit us in May. God grant it may be so and we may have a few months of peace and be better prepared to receive them next winter.

Your father and Sue are refreshing themselves daily with the sassafras blossoms. Henry say the pith makes a mucillage that is a very good wash and wood sooth your father’s eye. It is no better and he has taken his usual spring cold. As yet it does not promise to be very bad. The rest of us are well. Wilmot 1 is so much better that he took the Governor [Francis Pickens] in his buggy to various places in the country on Saturday and was only fatigued from the ride of 33 miles.

Wilmot Gibbes DeSaussure (1822-1886)

We are all glad to learn that Mr. Elliott has secured so comfortable a house for the summer. I hope, my dearest child, we shall not be driven to take refuge with you. I am glad Henry has gone to school. You have reason to be proud of his letter and I trust will have still more cause for pride in his attainments at school and his general good virtues upright honorable conduct, for the character of the man is laid in the boy. I suppose he comes on Friday.

If you were near enough to Mrs. Anderson, you would no doubt find her a pleasant neighbor. Dr. Anderson’s daughter, Mrs. Childs, is at the arsenal here.

Thank you dear precious daughter for the reference to the Hymns. I will look them up. My precious John is never out of my thoughts and it is so sweet to think of him in his purity of character on earth and his blessed state in Heaven. I will send you a copy of the resolutions of the Hugenot Church. A letter from your aunt G. says she got up well, [and] found Abbie and Margaret waiting for her. She will stay more at home. Her people all quiet and wish her to be with them.

Your Father, brothers and sisters all desire much love to you, and our household unite in cordial regards to Charlotte, Maria & Nancy.

Your ever affectionate mother, — S. DeSaussure

1 Susan’s son, Wilmot Gibbes DeSaussure, was the Secretary of the South Carolina Treasury and as a Representative to the State Assembly. Appointed to Brigadier General of State Militia in 1861, De Saussure led the 4th Brigade throughout the Civil War. He served on South Carolina Governor Francis Pickens cabinet as Secretary of the Treasury. In 1862, he was elected State Adjutant General and Inspector General of Militia. Post Civil War saw De Saussure resuming his profession as a lawyer and becoming the President of the Huguenot Society and the Sons of Cincinnati. The General died in Ocala, Florida on February 1, 1886.

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