Anna Moffett's Civil Wa r- 1
- 1899 reads
December 31, 1860
I see the cover of the Christmas issue of my magazine, Godley's Lady's Book, with a wood cut of the dear British royal family featured yet again standing under their "Christmas tree". Well, it doesn't look much like the Royal family, as they took off Victoria's Crown & Albert's moustache, to make it seem more like an American family. The magazine likes to repeat this cover every ten years & it brings back memories to me. But I can only wonder what life will be like in another decade. Surely there will be a change & if I am allowed to live that long, I can only think that the change will be for the worse.
My son, George, has given me this diary for my Christmas present, as he knows that I enjoy writing, & has suggested that I put down in great detail all that is happening in our southern states over the next year. He says that no matter what happens, this year will be remembered forever, & that my grandchildren & their children will be interested in knowing the day to day problems that we encountered. He sounds so gloomy, as if he felt that we were in for a huge catastrophe. I can only hope that he is wrong. However, I will do as he asks & write this diary as if it were a book, written for my great grandchildren to read long after I am dead. I will put in all the details, starting with who we are, & where we live, & what has happened in the last few months to make our lives turn upside down.
When I told him I had no idea how to go about writing a book, George said that I should pretend that I am talking to someone & tell them things that I find interesting, as they would probably find them interesting too. So here goes.
My name is Anna Reid Moffett, I was born in 1795 so in January I will be 66. In 1818, I married Andrew Moffett, who was born 1793 in Scotland but he then moved to America, where we met and fell in love an we had a very happy & prosperous life together.
He owned & ran a huge dry goods store in Charleston, located at 188 King Street & in 1839 he bought & rebuilt this house we live in, at 328 East Bay Street. It is a huge house & very beautiful, & we are comfortable here. My beloved Andrew died in 1849 when he was only 56 & I have been distraught ever since.
Our household now, in 1860, consists of me, my son James, 25, who has his eye on a future wife, Macie Jenkins; my daughter Anna Simonton, 33, a widow, as her husband, John, didn't survive a year of their marriage; my daughter Mary, 30, unmarried but with hopes of a future with Francis Clement & our seven slaves - Frances, May & Emma & her children, Minnie, Samuel, Ella & Sukie. Our other children have now married & moved to homes of their own.
My son, George Hall Moffett, 31, (who gave me the diary) has married Elizabeth Simonton,
deceased John's sister. They have three children, Lizzie, 5, Andrew who is nearly 4 & Anna, a tiny baby born in May & they live at 8 Judith Street.
Charles H Simonton, Elizabeth's other brother, is 31, & he lives at 6 Vanderhorst Street. His wife is Ella & they have a daughter Louisa. Charles trained as a lawyer & was in the South Carolina House of Representatives. He is an important part of the story I am telling, for he is in charge of recruiting & organising the local military volunteers for the skirmish which is anticipated. But I will say more about that later.
My son John Reid Moffett, 36 & his wife, who was Georgina Burckmeyer have four children, Sarah, 10, Margaret, 8, Andrew, 4 & John who is 2. Georgina is expecting a baby soon. Three of their children died young, They have four slaves & they live at 51 Charlotte Street.
My daughter Margaret, 40, is also now sadly a widow, as her husband William Adger (of the very important Adger family who have been called the Rothschilds of Charleston as they dominate the commerce & society) died of smallpox in 1853. She has two sons, James, 15, & Andrew, 14, & three daughters – Anna, 17, Margaret, 10 & Agnes, 8, & they have only one slave. They live at one of the Adger family homes at 218 East Bay Street.
Their family is seriously rich, worth at least $1 million, the company was described as one of the best & oldest establishments in Charleston. William's grandfather came here from Country Antrim in Ireland in 1790 & joined a small prosperous cohort of Scots Irish Presbyterian merchants & bankers.
My son Alexander, 28, married Sarah Nisbet from near Milledgeville, Georgia, & he moved there. They have three children, Anna 3, Alfred, 3, & Morton, 6 months.
Two of our children died young - Elizabeth, our first born, who only lived a year, & Andrew, who died when he was 16.
So that is my family dealt with, now on to the political situation.
We all knew that something bad would happen when Abraham Lincoln was elected President, with his plans for emancipation of the slaves & ruination of the Southern economy.
Three weeks before the election that Abraham Lincoln seemed certain to win, Charleston's
elite militia, the Washington Light Infantry, held an evening meeting on the "threatening aspect of affairs.” Their commander, my daughter-in-law's brother, Captain Charles H. Simonton, recommended a heightened preparedness & made an offer to the state governor of their services.
Lincoln was elected on November 6th of this year.
It was only a month later, on December 20th, when a delegation of 169 men, our most powerful residents - planters, judges, legislators & clergy - assembled at Columbia’s stately red-columned First Baptist Church. Within hours they came out with their statement, "The state of South Carolina should forthwith secede from the Federal Union.” At the assembly were delegations from Alabama & Mississippi & we hoped that the other Southern States would follow in our wake.
As Senator James Henry Hammond, who resigned, says, “South Carolina does not wish to create a Republican Nationality for herself independent of her Southern Sister States. What she desires is a Southern Slave-holding Confederacy & to exemplify to the world the perfection of our civilization, the immensity of our resources & that the wonderful progress of these United States is mainly due to us.”
The secession convention declared:
"We affirm that these ends for which this Government was instituted have been defeated & the Government itself has been made destructive of them by the action of the non-slave holding States. Those States have assumed the right of deciding upon the propriety of our domestic institutions; & have denied the right of property established in fifteen of the States & recognized by the Constitution; they have denounced as sinful the institution of slavery; they have permitted
open establishment among them of societies, whose avowed object is to disturb the peace & to eloign the property of the citizens of other States. They have encouraged & assisted thousands of our slaves to leave their homes; & those who remain, have been incited by emissaries, books & pictures to servile insurrection."
The Union President (Lincoln has not yet been inaugurated) James Buchanan, declared secession illegal but did not say anything about acting to stop it for he declared going to war to stop it was also illegal.
Very few South Carolina whites see emancipation as viable. We fear that if blacks – the vast majority in most parts of the state – were freed, our economy would cease to exist. Free slaves would try to "Africanize" us as we have seen happen in slave revolutions in some areas of the
West Indies. But on top of this, we also feel that it is each state's right to choose for itself whether to allow slaves or not, & also its right to secede if it isn't happy with the declarations of the Union.
So what happened next?
Well, my son, George tells me that our volunteer militia must surround the Union Army forts that are in our harbor, & they must have a supply of troops & ammunition available.
Six days later, on December 26, Major Robert Anderson, commander of the Union troops in
Charleston, withdrew his men from Ft. Moultrie & put them on the island fortress of Fort Sumter in Charleston Harbor, which previously had not held troops. This was regarded by our Governor Pickens as an overt act of war.
On December 27, The Washington Light Infantry with the Marion Artillery swarmed over Ft. Moultrie which the Unionists had abandoned, & also took over Castle Pickney. Yesterday, on the 30th they took over the U.S. mainland batteries in the city & then trained their guns on the island of Ft. Sumter.
Sumter is the key position for preventing a naval attack upon Charleston, so we are determined not to allow federal forces to remain there indefinitely. & as Charles Simonton puts it, our claim of independence would look empty if the northern forces controlled the south's largest harbor.
I should tell a bit more about Charles' group of volunteers.
It was founded way back in 1807 in response to a perceived threat from abroad, when a British ship fired upon an American one, captured it & then went on board & took men whom they claimed were British deserters. A public outcry was heard across America against such heavy-handed
tactics on the high seas, resulting in the formation of many local militia groups.
In July that year, several young men of Charleston met at Robinson's Hotel & formed the Washington Light Infantry & called it after their namesake - George Washington.
Just this last summer, a medal was issued & presented to those in the group, including Charles. At that time anti-abolitionist sentiment ran deep in the streets of Charleston so it stepped up its recruiting efforts. During the annual 4th of July parade Charles strove to muster as many
men as possible. & he was successful, as the Washington Light Infantry paraded 144 Rifles, divided for the first time into two companies - A & B. Medals were struck & presented to all who paraded.
So during these Christmas holidays we have had much enthusiasm shown in Charleston, with torchlight processions, speeches, firing of cannon, flags flying, etc.
One of our relatives, Robert Hall, who lives in Liverpool, has Punch magazine sent to us. We often don't get the magazine for many weeks, & other times we get it fairly swiftly. On the December 1st issue, there was a picture of a slave showing a newspaper to Lincoln.
Apparently there was much controversy over the black man's question "Hab you seen de
papar Sar" which sounds particularly insolent, as it suggests that the slave has already read about Lincoln's election, presumably before his master has had an opportunity to do so. It is illegal to
teach slaves to read & write.
I will continue with this when I next have some free time.
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What a fascinating
What a fascinating perspective.
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I think looking forward to
I think looking forward to reading more of this, Jean.
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Wow! What sources have you
Wow! What sources have you found to sift this account from? Always interesting to see how viewpoints can seem right at the time, and to see what consequences of change people were fearing. it will also be interesting to see what the relations between family and slaves were in these families, as worldwide there were some happy relationships, more like workers and family, and other very unhappy situations, i think. Rhiannon
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