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Ella Merritt Letters

Twenty-four manuscripts, 1859-1865 and undated, consist largely of letters to South Carolina native Ella Merritt, who was sent to Boston in 1859 for medical treatment under the care of Dr. Abbe. Writing from Aiken in a letter postmarked 30 August 1859, cousin Lucy, a frequent correspondent, speaks of events about town since Ella's departure--"George Pardoe Shot Willis Buckhalter's arm off Saturday night and broke his gun over his back, and Oscar Wever attacked a man on the same night and beat him untill he thought he had killed him, and then robbed him, he fled to Hamburg sunday night and instead of going on the Jackass stopped there, and got drunk and went to frollicking they caught him and brought him out Tuesday night in handcuffs Wednesday morning he got away and out ran them and the officers are now in search of him...."

Responding to news of the capture and execution of abolitionist John Brown, Lucy wrote, 30 December 1859, "...as they are going to have a goodly number of monuments North ask them if they cant spare the southerners just a little peice of his big toe and they will honour it by raising a monument three times as high as Bunker hill, out of the bones of all the yankeys who come south meddling with honest mens rights, in commemoration of the great good the southerners did by ridding the Earth of such a villian." Letters to Ella Merritt from New Englander Fred E. Waldron comment on the coming of the Civil War. That of 28 January 1860 declares--"You say that I will never fight against Mass[a]chusetts but as long as there is life in my body so long will I uphold the rights of the South, and am most happy to say that I am not bound in any way to my native state...." Waldron's letter of 10 April 1860 suggests that "Civil war is...nothing but murder"; another, 20 February 1860, refers to Lincoln as the "milk and water President." A letter from Lucy, 17 January 1861, headed "The Republic of South Carolina," boasts--"We are all in hot water here, I suppose you have heard how hospitable Charleston is becoming [and] what a warm welcome she gave the Star of the West."

Representative letters from Confederate soldiers William Lowndes Daniel (1833-1863), John Bryant Weathersbee (1844-1863), and Tully Franklin Sullivan Weathersbee (1843-1917) are also found among the papers. Confederate surgeon William L. Daniel's letter, 28 January [18]62, addressed to Ella's sister, Annie Elizabeth Merritt (1843-1925), speaks of his desire to return home "when my enlistment is out" but notes--"So many in our Army have been cut down in the bloom of youth and the vigor of manhood, that the most robust may well have cause to fear for his own Safety. This unholy War has caused the country to resound with the voice of lamentation, and the places of her Slain will never be filled on earth." Seven months later, 5 August 1862, this 1857 graduate of the Medical College of South Carolina wrote once more, reporting--"The most disgusting and repulsive sights I ever saw in my life have been in Hospitals and on the Battle Field...."

Wartime casualties are related in other letters. That of 3 August 1863, penned by [Tully Franklin] Sullivan [Weathersbee] from David's Island, N.Y., to his mother, Elizabeth Jane Bates Weathersbee, tells of the death of brother John Bryant Weathersbee, a fellow prisoner of war, and a letter fragment, 4 August 1863, announces the death of William L. Daniel. Two postwar letters, 20 June and 28 September 1865, from Capt. Fred E. Waldron, 51st New York Volunteers, offer his assistance in attending to the remains of Corp. M.L. Merritt, a member of the 17th South Carolina Volunteers, killed 30 July 1864 and buried "just behind the Crater" at Petersburg.

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