Addition, 11 Nov. 1861 - 15 Jan. 1862, to the William Moultrie Reid Papers
| Manuscripts Gifts 2006 | Front Page 2006 | Previous Issues | Friends of the Library |
Six letters, 11 November 1861-15 January 1862, describing wartime living conditions in Charleston, S.C., and the fire that decimated parts of the city on 11 December 1861 have been added to the South Caroliniana Library’s collection of papers of Presbyterian minister William Moultrie Reid (1798-1884). | Manuscripts Gifts 2006 | Previous Issues | Endowments | Friends of the Library |
The letters were written by Anna Campbell Reid to her in-laws in Sumter, South Carolina, and complement earlier correspondence already contained within the collection between Anna and her husband’s family. Anna Campbell Reid was the daughter of George B. Reid, a banking official of Charleston, S.C. She married James Merrick Reid, the oldest son of prominent Presbyterian clergyman William Moultrie Reid (1798-1884) and his wife Margaret Goulding. At the time the letters were written, William Moultrie Reid was serving as pastor of Mt. Zion Presbyterian Church near Sumter, S.C.
In the first letter, dated 11 November 1861, Anna tries to dispel her family’s fears over “how close the Yankees are” following the Union attack on Port Royal by commenting on military preparations in the Charleston area. She notes that “every free Negro and labourer” was being used to construct embankments and obstructions along the rivers in St. Andrew’s Parish and that her husband’s unit (the Wagner Light Artillery) was stationed at Fort Johnson on James Island, but was being “regularly mustered into Confederate service.” Notwithstanding her family’s concerns and rumors that have reached her in Charleston of Beaufort’s capture and destruction she states in a letter of 25 November that “none of us have any idea of leaving, I cannot make up my mind to go so far from M[errick]?”
Following the fire, these feelings would change. In a short note of 13 December 1861, written only two days after the fire, Anna’s attempts to reconcile herself to the tragedy are evident. She laments the fact that her father’s house had been destroyed, and since “every cart and vehicle were in demand” they were only able to save a small amount of clothing.” She closes her note by stating that “I don’t yet realize what I have gone through” but promises to “write… when I get more composed and settled.”
In her next letter, penned on 31 December, after an illness of over a week, Anna is still trying to make sense of what has happened to her life and cannot understand the actions of her father on the night of the fire. She claims that “no one could persuade him that the house was in danger, and when he did find it out himself, it was too late” and notes sorrowfully that “it will ever be a source of regret and self-reproach.” In this letter, Anna also announces her plans to evacuate Charleston for the safety of Sumter as “M[errick] does not feel at all satisfied to leave me here in such a state of things, and would be much more easy to know that I was with you, out of the way of all the anxiety and excitement.”
Anna’s concluding letter of 15 January 1862 finds her still in Charleston where the high prices of coffee and flour were relieved somewhat by the arrival of the blockade runner “Ella Warley.” However, the same event also increased the presence of Union warships around the harbor. She explains that the only reason she is still in Charleston is because they “expect to receive something from the ‘relief association’ which will compensate somewhat for all that we have lost.” At the same time, however, she is “all the more anxious to be settled in the home where such a hearty welcome is awaiting me.”