Anna Moffett's Civil War - 2
January - April 1861
I feel I should make some notes about the war in my book, but am not really sure what to write. I
told George that I don't know all about how armies & wars work, but he says just to read in the newspapers & write about it, as if I were talking to the girls. He will tell me the important details as they come along. He says just to put in information that people in years to come, who know nothing about our Secession, will be interested to find out & of course, any details of the family.
We are very lucky to have loyal citizens here in South Carolina. The Citadel, which is the South
Carolina military school - fired the first tentative shots of the war when they fired at the Union ship, Star of the West, as it came into the harbor with relief supplies for Fort Sumter. They struck the ship three times & caused it to go back to New York. The Citadel's jobs in the war effort are to drill recruits, manufacture ammunition, protect arms depots, & guard Union prisoners, not that we have
Let me tell you something about Charleston, in case you are reading this is a far away place & have never visited our beautiful city.
We have an excellent harbor, surrounded by islands with forts, bastions & floating batteries
to protect it from enemy fire & our position is such, we are the natural first stopping place for ships from the Caribbean, which is why this became the slave trade center for the Southern States. We
also have a very well developed train system, with tracks going off in all directions to most major cities. We are rich in good land & have many industries that do well. Our population is about 40,000, so we are the largest city in South Carolina & the 22nd largest in all of the States.
We have strong Generals from our state, Wade Hampton III one of our leading cavalrymen, Joseph B Kershaw with an infantry brigade, & James Longstreet who serves under Robert E Lee. The
man that Charles is under is General Pierre Beauregard, also considered a very important man in our cause.
At least we have some support from our near neighbors. Yesterday Mississippi seceded from the Union.
We do seem to be getting into some sort of group of Confederate States now.
On January 11th, Alabama became the third State to secede & a week later, Georgia did too. Then last week, on the 26th, Louisiana joined us, making five.
The city already seems transformed into a military camp, with troops from the upper counties hurrying to the seacoast & the artillery batteries (I had to ask George what that was. A battery
is a unit of guns, mortars, rockets or missiles so grouped in order to facilitate better battlefield communications & command control.) were being erected at all points, there was a constant
drilling, & nightly patrolling the streets - all is changed.
Georgia, Florida & Texas have now joined us in the Confederacy. Virginia & North Carolina are sitting on the fence, as although they have voted against secession, say the only way they will join the Confederacy was if there was an out & out war. There was a meeting going in Montgomery, Alabama, to work out how we are going to become a separate nation & to choose who will be
the new President of our bit of the States & to write a constitution for us. That was adopted a few days ago. & I have just heard that Jefferson Davis has been elected the new President.
How should I describe him? His stature is tall, nearly six feet; his frame is very slight & seemingly frail; but when he throws back his shoulders, he is as straight as an Indian chief. His features are distinctly marked with character & no one gazing at his profile would doubt for a moment that he has seen more than an ordinary man. His face is handsome & his thin lips often shows a pleasant smile.
Elizabeth, who is my daughter-in-law, frequently has letters from her friend Mary Chesnut, married to the previous Senator for South Carolina, James Chesnut, Junior, who resigned his seat just after the election. James' father, also called James owns many slaves on their five plantations. Mary makes a big deal out of saying that she & her husband don't have any, The black people who work for them, are paid for what they do. Elizabeth tried to get Mary to say where her support was in the
matter of freeing the slaves. Mary says she is no supporter of slavery, although her husband's family's plantations are each staffed with slave help & laborers. She said, “The best way to take
Negroes to your heart is to get as far away from them as possible.” Whatever that means.
The Yankees think they will subdue us in six months. What fools. The authorities of Charleston with the concurrence of General Beauregard, advise all the non-combating population to leave the city & remove their personal property. They promise that the city will be defended to the last extremity but there will be much fighting in the attempt. I suppose we must think about leaving, but it will tear out my heart to leave my lovely home.
We were worried that as soon as the Negroes found out that the North was attempting to free them, they would join the Northern forces. Apparently some wrote to military commanders & petitioned state governments, asking for the repeal of the laws that barred them from serving in the militias. But as of now, they can only help in non-fighting ways, such as carrying the wounded off the fields, or standing as guards.
Having them as a fighting force was rejected by President Lincoln & the other Union leaders because they were afraid that arming blacks would offend slave holders in the loyal border states as well as Northerners who opposed abolition. I expect Mr. Lincoln really agrees with us that slaves are not smart enough or brave enough to make good soldiers. I heard that he said, "If we were to arm them, I fear that in a few weeks the arms would be in the hands of the rebels."
Everyone means to go into the army. If Sumter is attacked, then Jeff Davis's trouble will begin. Then war will begin in earnest.
Mrs. Mary Chesnut, in one of her letters to Elizabeth says about Lincoln, "He is awfully ugly, even grotesque in appearance. The kind who are always at corner stores sitting on boxes, whittling sticks & telling stories as funny as they are vulgar." Mr. Chesnut says, "Lincoln is the hardest fellow
to handle I have ever encountered. He is an utterly American specimen, coarse, rough & strong. A good-natured, kindly creature & as pleasant tempered as he is clever. & if this country can be joked & laughed out of its rights, he is the kind-hearted fellow to do it."
Mary continues, "I wonder if it be a sin to think slavery a curse to any land. Men & women are punished when their masters & mistresses are brutes, not when they do wrong. Under slavery, we live surrounded by prostitutes, yet an abandoned woman is sent out of any decent house. Who thinks any worse of a Negro or mulatto woman for being a thing we can't name? God forgive us, but
ours is a monstrous system, a wrong & an iniquity! Like the patriarchs of old, our men live all in one house with their wives & their concubines; & the mulattoes one sees in every family partly resemble the white children. Any lady is ready to tell you who is the father of all the mulatto children in everybody's household but her own."
She can speak for herself, rather than insinuate things about my darkies. Emma's children might be mulattos but they certainly do not resemble my children.
George has asked me to contact our Hall relatives in Liverpool, & tell them a bit about our circumstances. So I have sent a letter. I will copy out here what I said:
Mrs. Anna Moffett to R. C. Hall
Charleston, 26 Feb 1861
My dear cousin,
There is an old saying - 'Tis an ill wind that blows no one good,' this has been verified when that breeze wafted dear Agnes's letter into the wet, by this I am indebted for your last kind note, whatever was the cause. I was very glad to received it & so was my daughter & Lizzy. I am happy to hear of the health of yourself, dear wife & precious children. Arty must be by this time a big boy & Marion running alone.
We very often speak of your all & wish we could meet again, but as far as I am concerned this may not be, unless if my life is spared to see these 'calamities pass over' you pay us that promised visit that will give us so much happiness.
Yes, you must come to see us & bring dear Mrs. H & children too. I want you to visit Charleston, the birth place of your sainted mother & adopted home of your revered father & also for our sakes too. I do want such men as you to visit our portion of America to see things with your own eyes & hear with
your own ears, & not another’s.
I could fill pages about our Country, our glorious Southern Country, but I know you have been educated to view our institutions differently to what we do, so will not say any more than this, come & see us.
My dear friend you are not ignorant of the state of our political affairs; they are drawing hastily to a crisis. A few days will decide whether we shall be allowed to govern ourselves peaceably, or be immersed in a bloody conflict. You are aware by this time we, that is seven states, have seceded from the Union, & have formed a Southern Confederacy. The Honourable Jefferson Davies has been inaugurated our president, & Honourable Alex Stephens, Vice President. I hope you may read the account of these solemn proceedings & compare them with proceedings of "Lincoln."
Believing you deeply interested in our affairs & would like to be informed of our course we have sent you some papers & sermons, which I hope you will give a reading. They will throw more light on our country's affairs than can be gathered in other ways. I send you now a sermon delivered by a Jewish Rabbi of New York, a clergyman of high standing. I sent you I believe one preached by Rev. Van Dyke of the city of Brooklyn, N Y also by this mail. Please receive also a card "The Ordinance of Secession, with the names of the members of the Convention; those crossed are connected with my daughter by marriage, Mrs. Simonton. Those marked are Charlestonians, the others of our State. Our State is fully prepared for the worst, not one dissenting voice, men & women, yes even
women, are all agreed to conquer or die.
We may suffer dreadfully & some, aye many, of our most brave & good men fall if we are forced to war; but conquered & forced to return to the Union as it now is, dishonoured, debased, sold to Black Republicans & Abolitionists we never will. How sad the thought that this once Glorious Republic should be shooked to its foundations & destroyed by demagogues & others who are urged on by mad fanaticism, but tis done. We wished to withdraw peaceably, but no, we were indispensable to their wealth though we were a blot on their fair. Escutcheon & Murderers, Blasphemous & every other sinner would enter Heaven before us slaveholders, forgetting that was never denounced a sin by our God, but when a people set up a law higher than the Holy Word & Law of Jehovah, the wonder ceases at any wished deed they commit.
My son George has just been relieved from duty on Morris's Island; he was there 5 weeks. He & two of my other sons may be called out, this or next week. Our army is not made up of hired soldiers, but the best men of the State, many of them men of fortune & Volunteers who leave their homes of comfort to fight for the those homes & firesides & under God will never be conquered by a hired mob. No my friend you may hear our gallant men have been slaughtered, but never conquered. We go forward in the strength of God, & we trust his banner of love is over us.
I hope & intend to write to Mrs. G Hall, London this week if possible. I have to crave the forgiveness for inflicting such a very long story on you but you will excuse. I will judge by your soon letting me hear from you if I have trespassed. Kind regards to Mrs. H & self from Anna & Liz, with kisses to the dear little ones, I remain yours with esteem & affection
(signed) Anna Moffett.
P.S. Remember us in your kind regards to your brother Lindsay. Excuse bad writing - finished at twilight, feel inclined to tear up.
When am I to get those Daguerreotypes promised so long ago?
As I mentioned in that letter, I also wrote to George Otis Hall, Robert's much older brother, & his wife, who are slave owners on their plantation called Magnolia Mound in Baton Rouge, although they themselves now live permanently in Paris. I said more or less the same things, so will not repeat that letter here.