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Letters to Reuel Smith, 1861-1865

Six letters, 1861-1865, addressed to Reuel Smith further delineate the differences which divided the North and the South at the time of the American Civil War. E.M. Beach, writing from Charleston, sets the tone for the series in a letter of 24 January 1861. Responding to Smith's statement that "`if the mere fact of the election of a President from Illinois--because he does not happen to suit Carolina Political leaders as well as one from Kentucky is to be the cause of a dissolution of the Union--the sooner it is known to the U.S. & the world the better'," Beach rebuts, "It is by no means the mere election of Lincoln which has aroused the South--but is the basis upon which that election was carried thro its whole canvass." "...it was openly announced...that there was to be no more slave territory...that we of the South are gradually to be driven to give up our slaves & adopt free labour--that we were to be deprived of our property by every means which men could devise, in open violation of...The Constitution," the letter continues. "...the South felt the time had come, when a separation must be had rather than submit to such a condition of things & take the government of ourselves into our own keeping....We desire a peaceable separation....We are disposed to settle upon the most honourable terms, all our national obligations but we are determined not to submit to the rule of a party & power dominant, which does not hesitate to declare its hostility to us & our institution."

Initial excitement over the war quickly subsided, and by 9 August 1861, when Drake Mills penned a letter from New York, the reality of a long and bloody fight was becoming clearer to both North and South. "We have a lull since the affair at Bull Run in political & military furor," Mills writes to Smith. "The `On to Richmond' shout no longer ding dongs the public ear and we hear no more about starving out the Rebels in 60 days, no more of submerging the lower Mississippi and drowning out the traitors, men women & children, like dead rats: and no more of conquering a union." Subsequent letters speak of the difficulty of communication between North and South during the course of the war.

E.D. Beach wrote on 18 February 1864, imploring Reuel Smith to assist in defending his brother, E.M. Beach, against suspicion of supporting the Confederacy, charges which were being used to justify the confiscation of his real and personal property at Skaneateles, N.Y. By the end of the war, however, E.M. Beach was once more in South Carolina, and a letter of 29 May 1865 announces his purchase of "a place in Kirkwood, the suburb of Camden." "...the place has twenty acres, & has given me occupation and Something to eat," Beach writes. "We have found it very pleasant, being on all sides surrounded by very nice people....Shermans passage thro this portion of the State destroyed nearly all our means of communication, & mail facilities, so that...we hear nothing from the outside world except occasionally some traveller passing thro is the bearer of letters & papers."

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