1865: Agnes E. Patteson to Cousin “Jim”

How Agnes might have looked

The following letter was written by 30 year-old Agnes E. Patteson (1835-18xx), the unmarried daughter of William Nichols Patteson and Sarah Ann Harding (1814-1880) of Buckingham county, Virginia. William N. Patteson was Captain of the Campbell Battery, Virginia Heavy Artillery which disbanded in 1862.

Agnes’s letter gives us a hint of the anguish White residents of Hinds county felt in the days shortly after the “downfall of the Confederacy.” Even as the “darkest shadows” shrouded their uncertain future, many former planters contemplated leaving the country to put down new roots in Brazil. For those who stayed, it would be three or more generations—nearly 80 years— before the White leadership of Hinds county would celebrate Independence Day. Residents still live with a statue in front of the Raymond Court House honoring the Confederate soldiers bearing an inscription that reads: “Erected by the people of Hinds County, in grateful memory of their men who in 1861-1865 gave or offered to give their lives in defense of constitutional government and to the heroic women whose devotion to our cause in its darkest hour sustained the strong and strengthened the weak.” [Source: Confederate Statue at Raymond Courthouse…by Kayode Crown, 7 July 2020]


Hickory Hill [Hinds county, Mississippi]
Sunday evening, July 9, 1865

My dear Cousin Jim,

I received on yesterday your letter of May 30th mailed at Vicksburg June 27th by Dr. Hunt & was, I assure you, exceedingly glad to hear from you. Altho’ I had received one of a later date, still I enjoyed it very much & would like to hear from you every day if possible. I wish I could get all the letters that you have written. I am very sorry that you have received none of my letters. I wrote to you the week after you left & have written every opportunity since—whenever I thought there was any possible chance for you to get the letter. The mails are again established in this state. We still send to the office in the morning so I cannot spend my time more pleasantly this evening than in writing to you. It is very warm & there is no one here. I wrote to you just two weeks ago. Had the letter mailed in Vicksburg. I hope you have already received it.

I have no news to give you. We are getting on as well as could be expected under present circumstances. The weather has been very warm for several weeks, but we have had good rains & the crops are looking well. I have seen very few Yankees—no colored soldiers at all. There are a great many in the country tho’ but none have been here. Our provisional governor has ordered a convention so all are expecting that it will not be long before civil law will be in force & the Yankee soldiers will all leave the state.

I am sorry that you seem so low-spirited about the downfall of the Confederacy. It is surely an awful fate that will be ours & is enough to make me feel desponding, but ought we not to think that God, who holdeth the destiny of Nations in His hand, has so willed it for some good purpose & so ought to submit with all possible good, hoping that a better day is awaiting us. You might certainly take comfort from a consciousness of having faithfully performed your duty in this war. I am proud of the part you took in it. I think if all others had acted as well that we would never have been subjugated. I try to be as little troubled as possible about it & am as happy & contented as I could be anywhere away from you. We have ever enough to be grateful for even when the darkest shadows rest upon our paths & so long as we both have health & love one another, I know we will be happy here & I hope that we may both try to lead just that life that will best fit us for a home in heaven hereafter. I thank you, my dearest cousin, for thinking of me whenever you are troubled & my sincerest wish is that I had it in my power to make your life as bright & happy as I wish it. Be sure that you will ever have my love & that,

“If ever fondest prayer for others weal availed on high
Mine will not all be lost in air but waft thy name above the sky.”

We all attended the commencement in Clinton this week. Mr. B. was here & went with us. He always enquires about you & says I must send his very best respects &c. Charlie comes to see us very often. Eva spent last week here. Porter & Ella 1 have just come so I will have to stop writing & go down. Will finish after supper.

Well, it is now eight o’clock & I will resume my writing. Ella & the children are well. Several of their servants have left—Milly, Aunt Julia, &c.—but they have enough yet & are getting along very well.

I forgot whether I told you in my last that I was taking music lessons on the guitar. Dr. Helwig, my old music teacher, will live here, I expect, the remainder of the year. 2 I played several songs last night on the guitar by moonlight. Could see our star & thought of you all the time.

I was down here to see the children a day or two ago. They are all well and asked about you. Mr. P[atteson] does not know where he will go next year. He & a great many others in the country speak of moving to Brazil next spring. I think that when this state is again under laws of her own making, that things will be better that we all expect & so but few will get off to Brazil or any other country. Ella is anxious to but says that she will have to live in Mississippi always.

I will not write any more tonight. I will continue to write you every week or two whether I hear from you or not. I know you will write often too & so feel that t’will be useless to ask you to do so. Good night, my dearest cousin. May Angels guard & guide you is the most sincere wish of your affectionate cousin, — A. E. P.

The servants all send love to Caesar & Henry & to all the others. I know you think this is written very badly, but I believe you will be able to read it & then I hope you will burn it & all will be right with me.

1 Nathaniel “Porter” Wells (1831-1903), a native of North Carolina, was married to Agnes’ sister, Ella Patteson (1832-1893) and had a plantation in Brownsville, Hinds county, Mississippi. Porter served from August 1862 to May 1865 as a private in the 4th Mississippi Cavalry.

2 The only Helwig appearing in the Hinds county, Mississippi, census of 1870 was Charles Helwig, born in Saxony in 1820. He was listed as a farmer in 1870.

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