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CIVIL WAR LETTERS OF PONTOTOC COUNTY

Matthews - Fortescue Letter


This letter dated, July 30, 1861 was written by T. J. Matthews to Nancy Elizabeth Fortescue, sister of his wife Mary Jane. Also mentioned in the letter are:
Clark McGraw/McGaw
Mat - (Martha A. Fortescue)
Kitty and Agnes Martin (possibly daughter of Robert Martin)
T. B. Scott (Thomas B ? - brother of John O. Scott?)
John Lewis - son of T. J. & Mary Jane Matthews
Joe Mills
Jane (daughter of Joseph C. Matthews - married George A. Christopher)
Dick (Richard A. Fortescue - brother of wife)
Tom (J. Thomas Fortescue - father of wife)

Richard A Fortescue joined the army on March 17, 1862

Ponototc, Mississippi

July 30, 1861

Dear Elizabeth,

I take this opportunity of writing to you to let you know that we are all well at present, and I hope these few lines will reach you enjoying the same blessing, for it is a great blessing to enjoy health. Altho I am in good health I am afflicted with pains now and then.

We received you letter the sixth of this month. It gave us great pleasure to hear from you all. I went to town that day to put five letters in the office to T. B. Scott and one to Clark McGraw (McGaw) and one to Kitty and Agnes Martin and the balance to other places. I got one from you and Tom backed to Jane , and one from Mat backed to Dick , and when any of us gets a letter from South Carolina it is who and who will get to read it first, until all reads it. We get so little news from there and it comes so seldom that it turns us all upside down to get a nice letter that come from there.

I have not much news to write as times are so hard. The people here are all for fight, and doing all they can to secure arms and munitions to fight with. There are a great many gone to Virginia from here and have been in some battles there, and I expect they have been in a very large battle by this time, and a great many have gone to Tennessee to stop the progress of the enemy there and they want more men to help them. I expect we all will have to go there or somewhere else yet to fight. We are fixing up shotguns and rifles and having bowie knives made in the blacksmiths shops to fight with, because we can't secure the right kink of arms; they ain't to be had, at least not enough of them.

Crops look fine now but begin to want rain, except cotton. It is very small for the time of year. I think if we have good luch we will make eight hundred or one thousand bushels of corn. I intend to sow about twenty ............crops in wheat and oats this fall if nothing happens.
 
 

Tell Tom we have fine fun catching raccoons and ground hogs in our corn. We have shot and caught a great many. We don't have to go far from the house to catch them, for they come up to the house and go to fighting, and the dogs take after them, and trees three or four up a tree, and the deers come in our field, and there are several large droves of wild turkeys come in the plantation every day. Sometimes they come to the spring which ain't more than twenty-five yards from the house and then come in the lot. Dick and John Lewis killed one apiece the other day.

O' Liza you ought to be here to eat watermelons. We have more than we can destroy. We all have a patch apiece, and I have more than a hundred fine large orange watermelons ripe in my patch now, and have them to weigh from sixteen pounds to twenty pounds apiece. One watermelon is as much as Jane and myself can eat at a time. Sometimes we don't get through with it. You had better come over to get a bite of the nicest you have ever seen. We have had them for sometime, and will have them until frost. I could take them to town and get from 40 to 50 cts. apiece for them but I won't, for that is taking up a negro's trade, although a good many white folks do it.

I will give you some idea how crops grow here. We planted about six acres of corn in new ground and some little in old land on the fourth and fifth of July, and now it is from waist high to as high as my head, and it never has been worked until now. We are working it, and this is the seventh of August. It would make good corn even if it never was worked. We had a beautiful rain this evening that stopped us from work. We lack about one day's plowing of getting through the new ground.

I started this letter in July but now will finish it; this is the seventh of August. Crops are fine - if you all were here you could live well on half the labor that you do there. Tell Joe Mills that I want him to move here; that he can make three dollars here to every one he makes there. Tell him I have about three hundred dollars worth of work for him to do, if he will come and do it. Tell him that I made the rise (?) of five hundred dollars last year, besides what it took to do me, and I expect to make that much or more this year, and that ain't nothing to what I expect to make when I get my place fixed up. Tell Joe I wouldn't want him to come, nor any other person else that I respected, if it wasn't that I wished him well, and knowing that he can do better here, for it is a civil part of the world.

Liz I want you to write all the names of the volunteers that you know, or can find out that went from South Carolina to Virginia and especially those that went from Abbeville District, for I know a great many of them. It will be a great satisfaction to me for to know, and write to me all the names of those that got killed in the battles, and what battles they got killed in, and who got wounded, and what officers they were under, from the head officers down to the lieutenants.

You wrote to me that you wanted me to send you a good pen if I have any. I just had bought a box of pens the day I received you letter. I would send you and Mat some of them for they are the best pens I ever wrote with in my life, for they dont scratch the paper like common pens. I would send them but I know they wouldn't be worth a cent by the time they got there in a letter. The boys put water in my ink and it spreads on my paper. You know that water will spread on paper when barely touched.

You all needn't look for many letters from Dick since the postage is higher, for he is too stingy to pay the postage, for it is ten cents here for every letter that is put in the office to go that distance. I tell you Liz , Dick had one letter wrote to Joe Mills and one to Mat and when he found out the postage was higher he wouldn't send nary one of them and brought them both back home again, and laughed at him about them and shamed him about it. He concluded at last that he would send Mats , and said he wouldn't pay for many letters to send to South Carolina. I told him that I would if they cost fifty cents. Some of them in reading my letter has got it wet and I haven't time to try to dry it.

Jane is as sassy as ever - I don't know what I will do with her, she just sits here and eats watermelon while I am writing. I am afraid she will make herself sick yet. "O" she said "she has got her belly full" and will quit for this time.

I must bring my letter to a close for Jane bothers me. You must write as soon as you get this letter and be sure to write me all the news. John Lewis wrote to you that I wouldn't let him go to the war, but he is welcome to go now or to go to school one year, just which he pleases. Jane and family join me in love to you all, and accept a large portion of my love to your self. So, farewell for this time, all letters backed to me I will answer, and all backed to the rest may do the same.
 
 

T. J. Matthews to

N. E. Fortescue

(Nancy Elizabeth)

 

This letter dated February 12, 1864 is from M. J. (Fortescue) Matthews (Mary Jane) to mother and sisters. The sisters were apparently Nancy E., Ann L., and Martha A. (Mat) Fortescue. The father, Thomas, had died in 1847.

Others mentioned:

Tommy (Most likely James Thomas Fortescue, her brother, who was then in the army)

Billey William Henry Matthews, her son

Uncle Jimmy ?

Cousin Miller ?

Cousin Martha ?

Kitty and Agnes Last name Martin, spoken of in previous letter

Margaret McGaw ?
 

Mississippi - Pontotoc

County, February 12, 1864


 
 

Dear Mother and Sisters,

It is with pleasure that I seat myself to drop you a few lines in answer to yours of the 13th of December. I am truly glad that Ma has got so very well again. We were surprised to hear that she had wove 200 yards of cloth since she got well. I was glad to get Tommy's letter to read all through; I had received one of a later date: it is the 11th of December. He was well then, and I hope he remains so yet. I sat down the next day after I received it and wrote him an answer. I hope that I will get another letter from him soon.

Mr. Matthews' health hasn't improved any yet; he seems to be rather worse since that cold spell of weather we had in January. It was so cold we could not keep warm at the fire, and it don't take much cold to hurt him, no time. He saw the doctor about a week ago and he told him he must blister the back of his neck three times just as fast as one got well put on another, and then let him know what effect it had. I put on the second blister today, but he says he don't feel like it is going to do any good. The doctor says when the weather gets warmer he will fix him up some medicine, but he don't want to give it to him when the weather is cold. The rest of us are well at the present, and hpe when these few lines reach you they will find you all enjoying good health.

I have no news of importance to write to you all, for if I write about the neighbors, you don't know them and it don't do you any good to hear about them, and there isno news agoing but war news and you know as much about that as I do.

They are making up companies here now of seventeen year old boys to do state service. They have one company made up of the boys around in this neighborhood I belived, and I heard today that they are trying to make up another. They want Billey to go but he isn't old enough yet and he had as well stay at home until he gets old enough, but he has grown so large that we are expecting the conscripts to take him up, but they could not keep him, but it would cause his pa some trouble to get him off again. I am afraid Mr. Matthews will have to go yet. There were men out a week or so ago taking all from 45 to 50 for state service also, but they never came here; the neighbors all know that he is not able to go and I hope they won't pester him. If he should have to go I do not know what I will do, for I do not know how I will stay by myself. He could get a discharge I know but it might be when it would be too late.

You speak about negroes stealing out there, but there are some white people here that are as bad as negroes. They came to our potatoe pit one night last week and stole potatoes, and then came to the house and wanted Billey to go a hunting with them, but we didn't know they had taken potatoes till next morning (when we saw their tracks and missed the potatoes).

I think ma's dress is very pretty. I expect to make my next dress like it, and I want to know what you dyed the black with and how much, I must double and twist for eight yards. I told Mr. Matthews that I believed that I wouldn't show this piece to any one, for if I did it would be like the other pieces - some one would have a dress like it before I could get mine spun.

Potatoe seeds is going to be right scarce here. So many of them have frozen and rotted. We had seventeen bushels of Spanish potatoes put up for seed, and we threw every one of them ou the other day, just as rotten as they could be. Our pit of eating potatoes are rotting very fast. They are all yams. We have a pit of yams put up for seed also. We think maybe we will save seed out of it. A good many of our Irish potatoes froze also but we have enough yet for our seed and some to sell. They are selling at ten dollars per bushel. Wheat crops are badly injured from the freeze. The big white wheat is all killed and the little red Alabama wheat is injured. Mr. Matthews is busy sowing his over now, but hasn't enough seed to sow it all over. I haven't commenced gardening yet but I will next week if nothing happens.

When Mat comes home she must write me all the news from Uncle Jimmy's and Cousin Millers and what Cousin Martha calls her children. Tell Kitty and Agnes to write to me; kiss them for me when you see them and tell them I want to see them very badly. I want to see you all badly, badly. I think if I could see my good old ma how I would hug and kiss her all over. The more I think about you the more I want to see you. I am afreaid the Yankees will get here yet, and then I can't even hear from you. They are at Jackson, Mississippi again and Canton also. Canton is this side of Jackson and they say that there is nothing to hinder them from coming here.

Give my love to Margaret McGaw and tell her to write to me. All join me in love to you all. I hope we will meet again, so I bid you farewell for this time.
 
 

M. J. Matthews

 


This letter from J. Thomas Fortescue, dated December 27, 1864 when "camped on Jas. Island", is to his mother, thanking her for the Christmas box. Jas. Island was James Island lying in the Ashley River just off the town of Charleston S.C. Confederate forces were on that island, and elsewhere in the region in defense of Charleston.

Persons mentioned:

Archie McAlister (McAllister)

John Flanigen (Flannigan)

Camped on Jas. Island

December 27, 1864

Dear Mother,

I take my pen in hand this morning to drop you a few lines to inform you that I have received my box and was glad of the reception of it for we were living on corn bread and parched meal coffee and when we go on picket we only had bread alone and it cold but we have been relieved of a greater portion of our duty that we have been doing all summer on the ramparts at night. We were relieved night before last by the artillery companies which have been idle all year. Some of the men think we will only be relieved through this Christmas but I am afraid they are resting us up for field service under Gen. Wheller to operate against Sherman when he begins his operations again but I am in hopes we will be here as flying troops to go to any point in case of an attack. The biggest part of the company has run the blockade and went to town to a big ball - the Regt. was invited together but don't think there'd be much fun being there from the crowd that went for them that was sober when they left the town to get drunk so soon as they could get anything that would make - come.

Archie McAlister (McAllister?) is complaining very much with rheumatism and has been lying up for the last two weeks but the general opinion is that he is playing off to keep off duty, just like he always did when he was in the company. I don't believe myself that there is anything the matter with him; he can outeat any man I ever seen in my life. He has got a box belonging to John Flanigen and John is at Grahamsville and they have about six in the mess with him and they will soon have it all eat up from him if he don't soon get back to the company, and I don't think it wright for them to do so when he is not here. I think they ought to keep it until he comes back but that is the way with the world; the man you think is your friend is the man that cares the least about you. Any man that would eat up a fellow soldiers box sent from home will do anything that is not right.

I will close for the prestent.

Your obedient son

J. Thomas Fortescue

 

This letter, dated April 21 (year not given but apparently 1865) with last portion missing, was apparently written by M. J. Matthews to her sister (name not given but probably Nancy Elizabeth).

Other names mentioned:

Tommie probably J. Thomas Fortescue, M.J.'s brother

Aunt Syntha ?

Aunt Margaret ? possibly McGaw, who had at least one son

Kitty and Agnes probably Martin as mentioned in earlier letters Tom Scott ?

Neash Rogers ?

Lucretia ? (Matthews)

Joe ? (Matthews)

Lorren ? gave birth to twins again

Billie Roberson dead

Ezekill (brother of Lucretia)

Pontotoc, Mississippi

April 21 (1865?)

Dear Sister,

I received you letter indue time and was truly glad to hear from you. I also received one from Tommie at the same time, which was a great pleasure to me. You don't know the pleasure it is to me to get letters from my friends and old native state. We are all about as well as common. Mr. Matthews' health has improved some since I wrote before. I have had a bad cough for a week but I think I am getting better of it now. I hope when these few lines will reach you they will find you and all of you well and doing well.

You wrote about Aunt Syntha, I was glad to hear form her as I had heard nothing in so long. Did she not say what part of Mississippi her daughter lived in nor which one it was? I would like to visit her if she is anywhere in reach. I was sorry to hear of Aunt Margaret being in bad health and her little boy having his leg broken. I hope he will be able to walk on it again.

I do wish I could see Kitty and Agnes - tell them they must write to me. We received a letter form Tom Scott not long since but he didn't give us much satisfaction about our business out there yet. Mr. Matthews wrote a letter to Neash Rogers to know what he will do. We received a letter from Lucretia and one from Joe also not long since Joe wrote that Lorren had twins again but lost one of them, and that Billie Roberson was dead.

Lucretia said her brother Ezekill's boys had met with misfortune in Ark (ansas) - the militia broke them up; they destroyed nearly everything the had. I am afraid we are going to have troublesome times. The radicals have the upper hand everywhere. They have turned all the men out of office at Pontotoc, and appointing just such as they want. I expect nothing else but some of them will be negroes. There was a man below here not far whipped a negro woman and there was a company of fifteen Yankees came down from Corinth to take him. Mr. Matthews was in town when they came in but did not know their business at the time, but have learned since. They say the Yanks got after the man but did not get him, but threw all his corn out of the crib and fed away and destroyed as much of it as they could and broke up all the old setting hens and are gone back.

Farmers are very backward here on account of so much rain. They can't get the ground dry long enough at a time to get much plowing done. It has been raining about two days every week for a long time, but last week it rained a great deal more. It was too wet to plow all week except about half the day one day, and it rained in the evening and there has been no plowing done since, and it is thundering and raining now. We have got nine or ten acres of corn planted but not a seed of cotton. I want to have a cotton patch this year.

May 12th - I did not get this letter finished when I was writing before. We have been so busy trying to get something done, and couldn't do much either. It rained two weeks in succession day and night. Could get no plowing done to do any good, but last week was dry enough to plow except one day. It rained a big rain one night and it was too wet to plow the next day, but we got some cotton planted. Got my patch planted. I am going to have three or four acres. I want to make two bales and that will make it if nothing happens to it. We have five acres more to plant if we can get it done, but it commenced raining yesterday evening and rained nearly all night. Too wet to plow today. We want to have ten acres in cotton if we can get it planted. Our garden is doing very well considering the wet weather. Peas and beans are in bloom; beets etc. look fine. We want to set our cabbage plants and potatoe slips today. We have old potatoes enough yet to do us till potatoe time again. We sold a good many for one dollar per bushel. Mr. Matthews has bought a fine young mule, three years old; has just got it broke to plow. My chickens are doing no good. I have had a good many hatched out but they are all dead but ten. I have quit setting then - just let them go.

I have finished me two new dresses. I will send you a sample of them. I think yours very pretty. We are going to have more rain; it is thundering very heavily.
 
 

(Rest of this letter missing).

 

Contributed by Anita Warren Harcarik .
 


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