These two letters were written by Francis Bernard Higgins (1794-1863) & his wife, Elizabeth Ann (Caldwell) Higgins (1803-1889) of Newberry county, South Carolina. The first letter was penned by Francis; the second letter by Elizabeth. Both letters were addressed to their son, Dr. Alfred W. Higgins (1827-1906) who married Mildred Nichols (1837-1912) in the late 1850s.
The first letter was written four years before the Civil War a couple of months before the 1856 Presidential Election that resulted in the Democratic nominee James Buchanan taking the Presidential chair. The second letter was written seven years after the Civil War and the two letters, together, provide an interesting contrast in the tone of the writing.
The first letter acknowledges the ascendency of the Democratic Party and seems to portend the dissolution of the Union should that party ever loose its grip on the control of government. The second letter shares a tone of bitterness as a result of “the devastation of war and fire” and resentment of the Yankees who continue to “take up men and put them in jail” just to keep Grant and the Radical in office.
[Note: These letters are from the personal collection of Richard Weiner and are published on Spared & Shared by express consent.]
Newberry, South Carolina
U. S. of N. America
August 21, 1856
Your letter of the 3rd July last, acknowledging the receipt of a draft No. 1 for 2500 Francs enclosed in my letter of the 11th June was received by me on the 21st of July, and I was pleased to know the fact that it had reached you in safety.
By this days mail I have received (or rather Fannie has received as it was directed to her) a something from you dated on the 4th of this instant. I cannot call it a letter to either of us, as it seems to be part of two letters; the first four pages in part of a letter, directed in the inside to me in which you state that my draft No. 2 for the amount above tased, has also reached you & you further then go on to recite instances in which remittances to several gentlemen in Europe had failed to reach them from this country, after which you proceed to say “with these reasons I proceed to make the following suggestions if meeting with your approbation.” But what these suggestions were intended to have been is more than I can imagine, as. the subject is entirely dropped, and the next page of your letter (the 5th page) begins in the middle of a sentence & in the middle of a subject to Fannie, the meaning of which none of us can understand on account of the absence of the first four pages of the letter to her. If this was the first instance of such a blunder, I might bear it with some degree of patience, but a similar instance of carelessness has occurred with you before which makes the present one doubly provoking.
I have written to you heretofore for a statement (as near as you. can approximate to one, and I cannot expect you to be precisely correct). of what amount of funds you will require to carry you through the course you have prescribed to yourself in France & to bear your expenses home, & at what time you would want those funds; but you have given me no explicit answer on the subject. I wish you in your next to do such a statement however may be contained in that part of your letter of the 4th of August which you neglected to enclose in the letter to Fannie.
The coming Presidential Election is producing a blaze of political excitement in this country, from one extremity to the other, which has never been equalled since the organization of our government. There is less of it in South Carolina than in any other state of the Union because at least three-fourths of our people belong to the democratic party & their minds are already made up and therefore require no political excitement to stir them up. And as to the possibility of changing their political faith, that is regarded by all the other states as impossible & therefore is not attempted.
Many persons apprehend a dissolution of the Union as a consequence of the present antagonism between the free & slave states. The thing is possible but I do not regard it as probable as yet, although I cannot believe that our confederacy can remain many years in its present condition. For the present, however, I think the storm will pass over without very serious consequences as the democratic party are now in the ascendant in every southern state without exception and also in several of the largest of the middle & western states & is still increasing in strength & will, I think, without any doubt be strong enough to elect a democratic president.
We have had through most of the southern states a very unfavorable summer for crops. In some small sections the seasons were more favorable, but those section were few and far apart. Very many of the planters will not make corn enough to do them, whilst the cotton crops is in many places also seriously injured. My own corn crop, though not good, is far above an average of the crops in this vicinity & without some unforeseen accident, I shall make enough to do me. My cotton crop is tolerably good & I expect to make as much as I usually do.
I received a letter from John not long since. He had been quite sick but had recovered. All of the other members of the family are well.
Answer me on the receipt of this and let me know the amount of funds you require & I will forward them to you. Your mother and Fannie & Martha (who is now here) send their regards to you.
Yours as ever, — F[rancis] B[ernard] Higgins
Newberry, South Carolina
May 23, 1872
Why have you so long been silent? I have often written to you all and have not received any answer from you since Christmas when I wrote to Minnie. I am very anxious to receive a letter from you. Fannie wrote a very long letter to dear Minnie in February before she was confined. She has another lovely son almost the exact image of his father. She has recovered her health but looks very thin from nursing,
I have just returned from a pleasure trip to Columbia to see Lolla. I am quite proud of the improvement, both mental and physical. She is quite a lovely girl and has established a good name for her industry, obedience and cheerfulness of temper. Mrs. McCormick says the she is now receiving good wages in the mantua business. Lolla says the she will be very glad to hear from you again. If you think there is a good opening in your town for her, she thinks that she will be ready by the last of this year if you can help her start. She wishes to learn the millinery department as it will. be conducive to her business to carry on both. I think you and Lolla could make it quite profitable if you would superintend the store. You know she will only be able to do her work as she will not have anything to start with but her hands. I am very proud of Lolla, She is very smart and everyone speaks in the best terms of her ability to carry on her trade.
I spent two weeks in Columbia and often had her with me, I had a very delightful visit. I stayed at Mr. Clark Wearing’s who married Mollie Black, old Aunt Gillam’s great grand daughter. He is a very wealthy artist or menial instructor. He lives in good style. I had a very happy time. Mollie asked me very affectionately of your welfare. She has a lovely family of children. She is the third wife of a rich man—very much petted. I was very glad to be able to visit the scenes of my childhood after 55 years absence, notwithstanding the devastation of war & fire. I viewed the old part of the college & thought of those dear ones who received their education in those walls, now silent—all gone from the scenes of this world to that rest that remains for God’s people. I was the happy witness of the monumental celebration of the association decorating the graves of our departed brave soldiers. It was indeed a lovely sight to behold so many dear friends engaged in crowning the silent, sleeping place of those who gave their lives for their country. I think there assembled over 2,000 persons in procession, all engaged in that solemn duty to the dead. I never witnessed such a scene and I think it was beautiful & respectful.
I wish you to write to me and all me how you are all getting on. I am still living when at home with the Dr. and Fannie at the old place as I wrote you word he bought it. Oh, he is indeed a good kind son to me. I am much better satisfied now than I have ever been since your dear Father’s death. Although I have but little, I knew I could not keep up the place. Therefore I consented to give up all & let the sale come on to have things settled. The Dr. has got it it into some shape so that he can arrange matters now & I got my dower which I had to pay for all the property I took under your Father’s will which the law said I had no right as the estate was in debt. I have nothing now but my land your Grandpa gave me & then I have a blessing in my children who I hope will never suffer Mother to want. All of them has offered me a home but you know how independent I am. I wish to be at all times ready to go where I think I can be of most service. I expect to go up to Tue’s in about the first of June as she will need my services in July. I have nursed Fannie through & she is in the same strength.
Poor Charlotte. She is still dragging out a miserable life. No improvement. All her first children left her but Burt & I am thinking of sending her to Charleston to the Soldier’s Orphan’s Home as there are some of the girls from this place who have been sent down and are doing well. I hope that Charlotte will consent to ____ going also. I am greatly surprised to hear that you have not received my letters. I wrote to you the week after Fannie was confined. I have been very much taken up with the babe until I left for Columbia. I had a delightful trip….
…We have had quite a time of meningitis amongst the blacks but none in the whites. We have had a spell of the Yankees taking up men ad putting them in jail. This your see from the papers, all for effect to keep Old Grant in office and radicals to rule the country. I hope the Lord will bring good out of evil. Write to me as soon as you get this. Direct it to Chappel’s Depot, Newberry County, care of James W. Smith as I will soon go there. Remember me kindly to all my friends…
Your Mother, — E[lizabeth] A[nn] Higgins