1866: Charles William Petrie to Eva Petrie

This letter was written by Charles (“Charlie”) William Petrie (1843-1913), the son of Lemuel Weeks Petrie (1813-1851) and Rosa Mahala Farrar (1824-1905) of Jackson, Mississippi. He wrote the letter to his older sister, Eva Petrie (1849-1911). After their father died in 1851, their mother remarried to Irish-born Rev. John Hunter (1824-1899), a Presbyterian clergyman, in 1858. During the Civil War, Charles served as a private in Co. A, 1st Mississippi Artillery.

Charlie’s father, Lemuel Petrie, was born in Maine but came to Rankin county, Mississippi, prior to 1840. In 1841 he reported that he owned 1,500 acres worth $4,500.  In 1842 Lemuel owned over 2,500 acres worth over $17, 500 plus a brick home worth $2,000.  In 1843 he reported that he owned 215 cattle and 49 slaves. In 1847 he owned various assets and 64 slaves in Rankin County, and 60 slaves in Hinds County. Lemuel became a large property owner in Hinds and Rankin county before his early death at age 37.  It appears that a substantial amount of his wealth was inherited, or “obtained” from his brothers. At the time of Lemuel’s death his property included two large plantations located a few miles from Edwards, Mississippi, and a smaller one in the same general area.  According to an estate inventory taken a few years after Lemuel’s death,  there were 76 slaves on the Downey Plantation,  77 slaves on the Baker’s Creek Plantation, and 25 slaves on the Elwood plantation.  The total appraised value of the slaves was approximately $134,000.  The total appraised value of the three plantations was a little over $143,000. 

In 1872, the Lemuel Petrie descendants filed a joint claim with the Commissioner of Claims regarding losses suffered during and after the Battle of Champion’s Hill (May 16, 1863) in Hinds County, Mississippi. A Calvary force of 60 to 70 men, which were part of Ulysses S. Grant’s army engaged in the siege of Vicksburg, camped and set up a hospital on the two plantations belonging to the children of Lemuel Petrie. The Battle of Champion’s Creek was fought partially on one of these plantations.

The initial claim was for approximately $30,000 for a variety of supplies taken by the Union Army. The claim was later reduced to $10,000. This claim represented three-fourths of the total property taken as one fourth belonged to another brother, Charles Petrie, who was not eligible for reimbursement as he was a soldier with the Confederate Army during the Civil War. The Petrie children had inherited the Baker’s Creek plantation and the Downey Plantation which were located near the site of the Civil War battle of Baker’s Creek that occurred on May 16, 1863. The largest claim item was for 56 workhorses and mules. Other large amounts included corn and cotton. A number of witnesses were called before the Commissioner of Claims to verify the amounts claimed by the Petrie children. Of these witnesses, one was the wife of the overseer of one of the plantations, and 8 others were slaves who had worked on the plantations for many years. The claim was substantially reduced by the Commissioner of Claims to approximately $1,300 due to many inconsistent statements regarding the amounts claimed, actions taken by Lemuel’s wife prior to the arrival of the Union Army, and the confederate loyalty of the Petrie’s. The Commissioner found that the workhorses and mules were of inferior quality and that there were fewer than claimed. The claim for cattle was disallowed as the Commissioner determined that the cattle were moved to another county to keep them from the North. All other items were also reduced substantially or eliminated totally. Only one-third ($1,300) of the Commisioner’s adjusted claim value was allowed as the Commissioner found that only Eva Petrie qualified. Eva qualified as she was “too young to entertain any responsible political opinions during the war”. [Compiled by Lawson S. Howland from Fold3 Archives.]

Charlie’s letter speaks of his efforts recruiting free Negroes from the vicinity of Vicksburg to work the family Mississippi plantations near Edward’s Station but does not appear to be sanguine about their productivity without “very close watching.”

See also—1836: Frederick Henry Petrie to John Elder published on Spared & Shared 2.


Addressed to Miss Eva Petrie, Care of Dr. J. N. Waddell, Oxford, Mississippi

[Vicksburg, Mississippi]
January 7, 1866

Dear Eva,

As I owe you a letter & will have an opportunity of mailing it tomorrow, I’ll write a short one though I know of very little to interest you.

I was in Jackson three days since & brought Alice and Rosabel home with me. Rosabel is quite pleased & asks more questions that a dozen lawyers can answer. She says that she don’t know anything to tell you. Alice desires me to say that she received your letter a few days since & will answer it in a short time.

I have succeeded in getting as many Negroes as I wish between those that stayed here and those that are to come from Elmwood. Mr. Ferguson is with me & he thinks we will be able to get a good deal out of them; but it will require very close watching to get much out of them.

I saw Erse while in Jackson and he told me that he had determined not to return to Oxford. I suppose his father has so much money that it is a burden to him and he wishes Erse to stay at home & assist in diminishing the pile, & from all accounts, he is an excellent assistant. Jackson has gotten to be the dullest place you ever heard tell of. There has not been a party there since you left but there is to be a grand Fireman’s Ball tomorrow night. But I expect it will be a failure as everyone seems to fear that there will be too many of all sorts of people there.

James Harding came on and stayed a few days during the Christmas [holiday]. His marriage is deferred for a month or two. He was compelled to leave Texas because the Yankees were set against him by one of his neighbors who told lies on him about mistreating Negroes. I wrote to Herbie about a week since and hope he has ‘ere this gotten my letter. I wish you or him to try to write to me once every week & direct your letters to Bolton’s Depot as I expect to be too busy to go to Jackson very often for some time to come.

I will have to close for want of something to tell you. Alice joins me in love to yourself & Herbie. Write soon to your affectionate, — Charlie

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