1861 Cerro Gordo, North Carolina Confederate Civil War Letter - Content For SaleCivil War Letter
Interesting 1861 Confederate letter written in Cerro Gordo, North Carolina - Talks of war battle deaths and the critical importance of salt to their economy.
FULL TRANSCRIPT, SCANS and RESEARCH NOTES below.
This letter was written by William Wynn Brown (1807-1894) of Columbus County, North Carolina. He was the son of James Brown (1773-1860) and Elizabeth Nance (1783-1840). He was married first to Winnifred Marilda Williamson (1812-1850); second to Catharine ("Katie") Potter (1834-1903).
In the letter, William refers to two of his sons -- John Council Brown (1836-1900) and Daniel Pierce Brown (1839-1903) -- who were soldiers at FortJohnson. Two other sons, not mentioned, died during the Civil War. They were James Richard Brown (1830-1862) and Owen Holmes Brown (1834-1863). The latter died in the Battle of Chancellorsville.
William's letter tells of the efforts of the local population to obtain salt which was necessary for curing pork. The supply had been virtually cut off by the Unionblockade. Salt was so precious a commodity to the economy of the state that the North Carolina Convention even established the position of "salt commissioner."A Raleigh newspaper article from December 1861 reports that "private parties are boiling salt on Carrituck Sound, on Bogue Sound, and on Topsail Sound, if not at other points." North Carolina farmers were advised to delay killing their pork for a short time until salt could be obtained at an affordable price.
Cerro Gordo, North Carolina
December 25th 1861
I now seat myself to inform you that I received a letter from your hand on the 22nd instant with pleasure which I was glad to receive though sorry to hear of the sickness and times in your country though no worse than here. I and my family are in common health at this time, thanks be to God for his goodness, hoping that this will find you and all of yours well though I am in distress at this time.
I received word yesterday morning that John was lying out of his senses at the camps in Fort Johnson which I am preparing to take the train tonight to go to see him. Daniel was well -- he got a furlough to come home -- and John was taken with a pain in his side and put him out of his senses last Sunday night and Daniel would not leave him. There has been a great deal of sickness here and somewhat of deaths. Martha Lockaleer was buried here last Sunday & Mr. Harris Coleman's son Grippa ¹died the same day and was buried yesterday. They have been a great deal of sickness in the camps at the forts on our coast and a great deal of death -- from one to two & sometimes three of a day.
You talk about about hard times but the hard times is here. Pork 10 to 12½ cents per pound., coffee none. Salt for $17.50 per sack to $20. We have been all through the country to the Sound and boiled our salt. The Yankees sailed on them and fired on the people where they was a boiling salt and throwed 36 pound balls amongst some of them and the balls cut down large saplings but done no harm. James Brown & my boy Ervin was in 2 miles where the balls fell and could see the streak of powder as they would shoot on the night of the 13th instant.
I have wrote to you since I have received any letters from you and thought that you was gone in the army by what you started in yours. I cannot tell why you have not received mine. As to the heirs of City ____, I am sorry that they could not get theirs when I had it for I did let it go and now it cannot be collected. As to money, it cannot be got here. The people here is in distress for to raise their tax money. There is their county & state tax, and now their war tax coming on us. There is no law here to collect debts. A man cannot collect money to pay his taxes. There is nothing that we can do to raise money without we had pork and the deaths amongst our hogs has deprived us.
As to being ready for what you state about the cake pans [?] business, I can't tell you now when I can be ready but you may depend I will let you know by letter. I want you not to forget me and I shall not forget you. Write and I will do the same. Excuse bad work for in a hurry. I can't write what I want for the want of time. Your old sister is at the Poor House doing tolerable well. ______ move but remains your sincere friend till death. -- W. W. Brown
¹ Harris Coleman (1811-1880) was married to Rebecca Williamson (1813-1880) [Rebecca was probably a sister of W. W. Brown's wife]. Harris resided in Cerro Gordo, Columbus County, North Carolina. He and Rebecca had a large family. The date of death of their youngest son, K. Agrippa Coleman (1849-1861) is revealed in this letter -- that being Sunday, 22 December 1861.
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