From the Phoebe Pember and Phillips-Myers Collections, UNC. Reprinted and
annotated in A Southern Woman’s Story (1959), Bell I. Wiley, ed.
Care Major Gen. Gilmer
20 October, 1863
I am divided, dear Lou, between
the double duty and pleasure of writing to you and toasting coffee, as Candis is
sick and Kate Ball gone to Charlotte in search of another brother who is
reported slightly wounded.
Whatever I say or however stupid and complicated my epistle is, you will at
least give me credit for my intentions. I was really desolée, as that term
expresses, after you left, and besides mental affliction I had all sorts of
misfortunes happen to me verily, my malignant star became in the ascendant.
I received a note from Lucy who I did not see till a few
days ago telling me of your safe arrival and the adventurous visit you and
Sallie made to Fort Sumter
wishing to hear more of your warlike doings I paid a visit to sixth street. My
first misfortune occurred there, as the ambulance as usual did not come for me
in time, and I walked long after dark to my lonely room on Church Hill.
Mrs. Stephens seemed delighted
with having a home, and perfectly satisfied with everything around her. I passed
the promised Saturday evening with her, and did not find the company as
agreeable as it “was,” I was careful to address all my pleasant commonplaces to
the lady, and when “Walter” took me home was in a paroxysm of distress that we
could not open the gate & some little detention was the result. However, I am
simply malicious in saying these things, for her whole manner and conduct shows that she never thinks of that
silly affair, and they are very kind, obliging people.
Lucy wrote me that she had
received a note from Mrs. “Accommodation” Long,
as she called her, in which she declines parting with any of those three
petticoats upon any consideration whatever, so that financial scheme falls to
the ground. She still thinks she will pay a visit to her husband.
I am preparing to go to my new
room. Dr. McCaw sent me word to make use of the ambulance as it had to go to
Market every morning, and a few squares farther would make no difference. This
makes me more comfortable as from the prices charged me monthly I could not have
afforded to engage the little carriage of the next division. On paying a visit
to Mrs. Skinner I found that I was to have the third story, front
room, no gas above the second story and no carpet in this bitter climate, and
without light, fuel, or carpet I was to pay sixty dollars a month. She had told
me that she did not want to make anything from her lodgers, that she had twelve
rooms and paid eighteen hundred dollars a year, and I pledged myself under the
circumstances, to take one of the rooms. She asked me if I thought it was too
much, and I said she was the best judge, and there the matter ended. I cannot
say that I made much of a bargain.
I met Gen. Lawton
on the street, looking much stronger and better; he was on horseback; so I only
had a word with him. How did you find your “lord and master” and did you give
him the big apple? Mind that you go to Market Saturday evening in Charleston and
buy some ground nut cake, and go and take a look at that elegant commencement of
the new customs house.
I have but little news to tell
you. Dr. H.
has forsworn the flesh pots of Egypt, and abjured the fascinations of the fair
sex. He comes early to his Hospital and returns late. His avowed [?] purpose is
to devote himself to the future happiness of his children and by way of
insuring it he toots away at his flute all the leisure time he has, as when they
attain the years of maturity he thinks they will stay at home to hear him play.
He has secured the remains of my room at Mrs. McMinn, and asked permission to
practice there. I could not refuse, but in going home found, then and since, a
chair always put just in front of the looking glass so that he could Practice
the graces with the flute, and my soap and towels rung very wet. Since that time
I have left one particular towel out for practicing purposes, and locked up my
tooth brush, as a man with such saving propensities might take a “cheap brush”
now and then, as it would cost him nothing.
I have all your Gospels safe and
sound, presented to me by the Rev. Mr. Madison, a successor of Mr. Crooks. I
will send them down to Major Reeves as soon as I can hear whether I can get you
any straw for a hat. Peter offered me some money he said you left for milk, but
as Dolan did not let me pay for that last month, or week, I declined to receive.
I have no news to tell you. Mrs.
has gone into the country with her husband to recruit his health, he looks most
miserably, pale and of the consistency of white paper unless she takes great
care of him I do not think he will five long. I have never seen anyone so
attentuated. Tell Ridgely I received an invitation from Miss Mary Gibson to
spend the evening and sleep with her, both declined, and also a visit from Mr.
David Forbes of two hours. Ask him if he is a fool, or only appears one. He
tells me that the Yankees have caught Cary.
I really don't know what I am
writing – it is one of my nervous days and a man in the next room has been
bawling some information about a chicken that he got from Georgia that fought
when “he cut off his wings and his spurs.” I have heard “that chicken” now for
one hour and have not a thought beyond.
Who shall I tell you about?
Shirley is quite well I know you will be glad to hear, and getting a little
stouter and my lips are also convalescent. He brought me a message from Mrs.
begging me to come to see her as she was “in such wretched spirits and heard I
was so pleasant.” I told him that as soon as I got my cap and bells and my suit
of Motley made I would go with pleasure. It is bad enough to have persons come
to see you to be amused, but to be summoned to them for that purpose is more
than my philosophy can stand.
Goodbye, that chicken is
too much for me, combined with the loss of twenty dollars some one stole
out of my Purse and the scorching of the skirt you gave me, while I was stirring
custard on the stove for a wounded man-it makes a concatination (sic.) of
circumstances too hard to bear.
Give my love and a kiss (till I
can give it myself) to Gen. Gilmer; tell him I shall only consider it a pleasure
deferred. Most lovingly yours
Do not be shocked at my paper
Care Major Gen. Gilmer
Candis is probably Mrs. C. Coffey, listed in
returns of Chimborazo personnel at the National Archives as “ward matron,”
and assistant, along with Miss Kate Ball, to Phoebe Pember.
Gen. J. F. Gilmer, to whose wife this letter was written, had recently been
ordered to Charleston to assist Beauregard in the defense of that city. See
Jas. L. Nichols, Confederate Engineers (Tuscaloosa, 1957), 33.
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