Category Archives: Causes of War—Slavery

1860: Earl Bill to John Carey

This letter was written by 47 year-old Earl Bill (1813-1885) of Tiffin, Seneca county, Ohio. Earl’s first wife was Roxy Ann Allen (1820-1847); his second wife was Susan Eliza Johnson (1820-1899). Though Earl made his living as a commission merchant, he was also active in politics. Previous to the date of January 1860 letter, he had served one term (1850-1851) in the Ohio Senate and he would afterward, in May 1860, serve as a delegate to the Chicago convention that emerged with the ticket of Lincoln and Hamlin. In the 1850s he partnered with another to publish the Sandusky Register which became the mouthpiece of the rising Republican Party in northwestern Ohio.

Earl wrote the letter to his representative in Congress, the 67 year-old John Carey, a War of 1812 veteran whose career included serving as a judge, an Indian agent, a member of the Ohio legislature, and an elected Republican to the 36th US Congress (1859-1861). He died in the town he founded, Cary, Wyandot county, Ohio, in March 1875.

[Note: This letter is from the personal collection of Richard Weiner and is published on Spared & Shared by express consent.]

The cartoon reflects the considerable bitterness among New York Republicans at the party’s surprising failure to nominate New York senator William H. Seward for president at its May 1860 national convention. The print was probably issued soon after the convention’s nomination of Abraham Lincoln. (LOC)


Tiffin, Ohio
January 24, 1860

Hon. John Carey,
House of Representatives, Washington

Dear Sir—Permit me to obtrude a few words upon you on political matters. At the moment I write, we have no information of the organization of the House, and we must understand probably the true causes. It is doubtless from a determination on the part of the “Democratic Party” never to let go of the hold on the public teat except when grim death summons the from all things sublunary. Thus far they have cloaked their purpose under a thin veil of pretended solicitude for the peace of Southern society, which is of course a mere show. Thus far, our Republican friends have nobly stood by their chosen leader of whom they are justly proud. Do they or do you doubt whether their constituents approve? Perhaps some shade of doubt sometimes crosses their minds; but sir, as for your District, I do not believe there can be found a single man who voted for you who would ever do so again if you should be driven by Southern bluster or Northern bluster to desert the standard bearer of the present contest so long as he maintains his present firm, self-respecting, and dignified attitude. I say this with entire respect, and not for a moment believing your firmness will be insufficient. But it may prove some satisfaction to yourself to know that your views of duty are concurred in at home.

US Congressman John Carey of Ohio

The truth is, there seems to be a number of Representatives from the Slave-holding States who are willing to destroy the Union and set up a Negro-Confederacy of their own; and in my judgment, they have initiated the matter already and intend never to cease their treasonable plans unless they can bully the North into a surrender of everything (including Northern manhood) into their hands. This should never be done. Let us know, now—and now is a good time to come at it—whether the North is to be a mere hewer of wood for Negro-drivers, and not to be allowed to have any opinions of its own on Governmental questions. The people of the Free States never boasted of superiority over their brethren of the South; but they do claim and will maintain (I hope) to be the peers of any people. If the maintenance of their just rights in the Confederacy produces the “Irrepressible Conflict,” 1 then let it come, but only their assailants must be held responsible for the consequences.

Truly yours, — Earl Bill

1 “The term “irrepressible conflict” originated with William H. Seward in an 1858 speech predicting the collision of the socioeconomic institutions of the North and the South. Seward maintained this collision would determine whether the nation would be dominated by a system of free labor or slave labor. In 1858 Abraham Lincoln proposed the same idea in his “House Divided” speech. At the time, the use of the phrase did not include the assumption that the “irrepressible conflict” would necessarily find expression in violence or armed conflict.” [Assessible Archives]

1862-64: Dwight Whitney Marsh to his Family

Rev. Dwight Whitney Marsh in later years

These two letters were written by Dwight Whitney Marsh (1823-1896), the son of Henry Marsh (1797-1852) and Sarah Whitney (1796-1883) of St. Louis, Missouri. Dwight had several siblings; those mentioned in these letters include, Calvin “Waldo” Marsh (1825-1873), Elizabeth (“Lizzie”) Willard Marsh (1829-1882), and Clarissa (“Clara”) Dwight Marsh (1834-1899) who married Samuel Watkins Eager, Jr. (1827-1903). Dwight’s father was an attorney in St. Louis at the time of his death in 1852 at the age of 53.

Dwight was born in Berkshire county, Massachusetts, and graduated from Williams College in 1842. He studied theology at Andover Theological Seminary in 1842-3, and then taught school in St. Louis, Mo., from 1843 to 1847. He continued his theological training at Union Theological Seminary and graduated in 1849, after which he was ordained and sailed in December 1849 from Boston to Mosul, Turkey, as a missionary for the A. B. C. F. M. In 1852 he returned to the U.S. and married 19 October 1852 to Julia White Peck of New York City. He then returned to Mosul where his wife died in August 1859. He finally returned to the U.S. in 1860 and began a lecture tour on missionary life. He was married on 21 August, 1862, to Elizabeth L. Barron in Rochester and then accepted charge of the Rochester Young Ladies’ Female Seminary where he remained five years. While there, he also preached for the Wester House of Refuge. He then went on to serve in the pulpit of various churches in the midwest before his death in 1896.

Letter 1

Osburn House
Rochester, New York
Thursday, August 21, 1862

My own ever dear sister Lizzie,

I am very sorry that our marriage comes off so suddenly that you & Mother could not be present. I think of you all much. It is now about noon & we are to be married at 3:30 & at 9 shall be at the [Niagara] Falls if all goes well. We have a charming day & I wish you were here to share in our delight. How often in this life our affairs move differently from our anticipations. I think we are about to be happy; but only our Maker knows what trials of sickness or partings are in store.

We are in war times. I think I never saw a city so stirred with enlistment excitements as this day. A regiment has just gone & 15 tents are camped on the pavements in the very heart of the city & the roll of the drum calls not an ordinary crowd. At 3:30 stores are closed & the strength & enterprise of the city is at work & will meet with wonderful success. They will probably avoid any resort to drafting in this county.

Coming from New England here, having heard Parson Brownlow 1 here, I think I can safely [say] that the North is wholly in earnest & will give promptly all that the government asks. This interest grows with every friend that falls & does not for a moment falter at any reverse. This is a great country & I am getting more & more proud of it. Should you come from St. Louis here, you would breathe a purer air & feel a new patriotic thrill & exult in living where to be living is sublime. “In an age on ages telling.”

“We shall have no lasting peace till we are ready to do something in the name of God & liberty for the slave. There clanks our chain.”

Rev. Dwight Whitney Marsh, 21 August 1862

Lizzie, I hope you & Clara all all at home will not think that my heart loved you any the less for the happiness of my new relations. I think that I love each of our dear family with a true & abiding love. I want your sympathy & your prayers. At St. Louis, where tiresome abounds, you must feel sad & discouraged at times. We shall have no lasting peace till we are ready to do something in the name of God & liberty for the slave. There clanks our chain.

Do give my best love to Anna & Clara & Sam & Waldo & kiss the children. When shall we meet? I cannot go to St. Louis for the present. I shall have to go look after Charlie again, as soon as October 1st, if not sooner. I shall try to write more at length soon. I hope Katy will not forget “Uncle Dwight.” Remembrance to all friends.

Your ever affectionate brother, — Dwight

1 William Gannaway Brownlow (1805-1877) was a preacher in the Methodist Church and a Tennessee newspaper editor. A Unionist despite owning slaves himself, Brownlow criticized the Confederacy even after Tennessee seceded. He was briefly imprisoned by the Confederacy at the beginning of the war. After leaving the state, he began a lucrative lecture tour in the North.

Letter 2

Addressed to Mrs. Sarah Marsh, Care of S. W. Eager, Jr., Esqr., County Clerk, St. Louis, Mo.

Rochester, New York
Saturday, November 12th 1864

My own dearest Mother,

Your kind letter written just before election came yesterday & now we can rejoice & thank God together. This state and Nation are safe. God has heard the prayer of thousands of His creatures. He has been very gracious & to Him be all glory & praise. The world does surely move on towards the glad day when truth shall no longer be trampled down in the streets. The Nation, by God’s inspiring decree & influence, has asserted the heaven given rights to live notwithstanding rebels in arms & traitors at the polls would have assassinated the nation.

Rochester Female Seminary—pillars repaired in 1864

I am almost too happy in the defeat of the intriguer [Horatio] Seymour & hardly less in that of the weak tool McClellan. I think McClellan was a well-meaning little coxcomb—fooled to the top of his bent by larger and meaner men. The sun has set upon [Samuel S.] Cox & [Alexander] Long & poor Fernando [Wood] has not even traitors enough in New York [City] to elect him. All lovers of liberty & truth must rejoice in the result of last Tuesday’s election. I have some curiosity to know how [brother] Waldo voted. I hope that he is under good influences. I want very much from time to time to hear just how he is situated.

Lillie & Miss Eaton are well. Were they in the room, he would no doubt send love.

Our school continues full. We have about eighty. We had lately a singular case of theft by one of the girls of silver spoons & we were obliged to send her home. She was only fifteen & lived some thirty or forty miles away.

Please tell me any news of the dear ones in Racine. Love to them too if you write.

We have been repairing considerably. Clara will remember that the pillars in front of the house were very shabby. We have had them freshly covered and they look now very well indeed. We have expended over $200 in repairs since Mr. Eager & Clara were here & they would no doubt notice great improvement, This change has been essential to be decent.

Rev. Augustus Walker and his bride, Eliza Mercy Harding—Congregational missionaries to Turkey

Mr. & Mrs. [Augustus] Walker 1 of Diarbekir made us a very delightful visit of nearly a week—only it was too short. We put on Turkish dresses on Wednesday afternoon & the young ladies had quite a treat. One day the girls took a vote & found 58 for Lincoln to 12 for McClellan, & besides the teachers all for Lincoln.

Our city (I am sorry to say) gave some 80 majority for Little Mac. He must feel very small. Little Delaware was just large enough to vote for him.

Old Kentucky started wrong in this war (only half loyal)—that is, loyal with an if—and she has suffered & may suffer far more for it. I hope she will consult her own interests well enough to give up slavery. It is idle to attempt to maintain it longer & will only delay what is inevitable.

Please give much love to Waldo & Mr. Eager & all their families, kissing the little ones for me. Thank you for remembering & writing to me on my birthday. I see God’s hand more the longer I live & I hope am grateful for His goodness & love. Every affectionately your son, — Dwight

1 Rev. Augustus Walker and his wife, Eliza Mercy Harding, were missionaries to Diarbekir, Turkey, where they spent 13 years. They had six children, two of whom died in Turkey. Only one child, Harriet, was born in America during a furlough. In 1866 the Reverend Augustus Walker died of cholera in Turkey, and Mrs. Walker returned to America with their four children.

1861: Mary C. Stewart to Sarah Elizabeth Russell

Libby Russell, ca. 1855

This letter was penned in June 1861 by a young school teacher who signed her name “Mary.” The content of the letter suggests to me that she was actually from the same same village as the young woman she was writing to which was her friend, Sarah Elizabeth (“Libbie”) Russell (1834-1925), the daughter of Luther Russell (1802-1878) and Polly E. Russell (1806-1896) of Streetsboro, Portage county, Ohio. The 1860 US Census for Streetsboro reveals a school teacher by the name of Mary C. Stewart (b. 1832) who was single and living with her parents. Since it was not uncommon for school teachers to leave their hometowns and teach in rural school districts while boarding with families of the students, my hunch is that this letter was written by Mary C. Stewart though of course I cannot confirm that by anything in the letter.

Mary’s patriotic envelope and stationery immediately arrest the eye but what is most interesting and appropriate is the postmark “Freedom, Ohio” given the content of her letter. Written prior to any major battle, Mary’s letter foreshadows the “blighting scourge” that is about to descend on the Nation, delivering “horror and despair” to the mothers and sisters who are already “shedding bitter tears over loved ones that have left them for the battlefield.” Mary lays the cause of the war on the evil “Slavery!” but also expresses her belief that the “agitators” (abolitionists) are as much to blame for sparking the war because they “sought at once” to eradicate the evil rather that trust that task to God.

The recipient of this letter (Libbie) never married. Her younger sister, Helen M. Russell (1841-1881), was betrothed to Corp. James (“Jimmie”) Fitzpatrick of Co. D, 104th OVI. He was shot in the head in the fighting near Dallas, Georgia on 28 May 1864 and died two days later.

[Note: This letter is from the personal collection of Richard Weiner and is published by express consent.]


Addressed to Miss Libbie Russell, Streetsboro, Portage County, Ohio
Postmarked Freedom, Ohio, July 1 [1861]

Freedom [Portage county, Ohio]
June 21, 1861

Dear Libbie,

Your kind letter was received long since and would ere this have been answered had not time laden with its many duties sped so swiftly onward giving me no opportunity to perform the pleasant task of writing to you.

I am teaching. Have a pleasant school of about thirty scholars. Plenty to do have I not? Yes, I find no time to loiter by the way to cull the flowers of ease and pleasure. Tis well for to the clarion call of duty so we owe strength of purpose and earnestness of life. Rousing the soul from its lethargic slumber and thrilling its inmost recesses, it breaths an inspiration that bids us, “do and dare”—noble things. I love to think of the many hearts that have responded to this call and gone forth to gladden the world by their deeds of love, silently and patiently they tread the uneven places, evincing that spirit of self forgetfulness that seeks not its own.

In the unwritten history of such lives, is a moral heroism, unequaled by many whom the world calls great, and I doubt not that in the day of final judgment, hearts that have thus lived and suffered will have won the brightest crown.

There is Libbie now but one topic of conversation in our little village. “War” is on every tongue. Mother and sisters are shedding bitter tears over loved ones that have left them for the battlefield. Is it true that the war-cry is sounding throughout our land? That our nation, once so prosperous. is to be visited by such a blighting scourge, making desolate our homes and spreading horror and despair all around? To me it seems like a fearful dream. I cannot realize it.

Our glorious Union, purchased by the brave heroes of ’76—gone forever. And what has been the rock upon which it has been wrecked? Slavery! a fearful evil that has ever been a dark stain upon our nation, and now threatens to prove its overthrow. The subject of slavery has been agitating the political world for many years and I can but think that many of the agitators have lost sight of that declaration—“Vengeance in mine. I will repay saith the Lord.” In their mistaken zeal they have sought at once to utterly eradicate an evil—that time and the power of which is ever on the side of right can alone destroy. Evils exist all around us over which we may weep and pray, and yet they be not removed. We can only commend our cause to God, believing that in His own time He will remove them. The question of slavery and all party distinctions are now forgotten in the desire to “save the Union” and I trust that it may yet be preserved, that the stars of our national banner may never be diminished but sustained by the brave descendants of the patriots of ’76—may continue to float proudly over our land. May God speed the right.

Oh Libbie, I want to see you “so bad” and all your friend at home. Present my kind regards to them and Helen. Tell her that I think of her often. May God bless her in her labors and make her useful in training the tender mind of youth.

Give my love to the Miss Combs. Tell Addie I do want to write to her but cannot find time. My love to Nancy Russell and tell her that she need not be surprised if she should receive a letter from me for I am thinking of writing. Libbie, please write soon—very soon. I have enclosed a letter to the scholars which Hellen will please give them. Also a note to Addie and Emma Patterson. When will [you] visit me Libbie? Ever your friend, — Mary