Screven Family Papers, 1855-1870
| Manuscripts Gifts 2006 | Front Page 2006 | Previous Issues | Friends of the Library |
Fifty letters, 1855-1870 and undated, of the Screven family of Savannah, Georgia, consist principally of correspondence between Thomas Forman Screven (1834-1913) and his first wife, Adelaide “Ade” Van Dyke Moore (1836-1864), written during the time of Thomas’ Confederate military service with the 18th Battalion, Georgia Infantry. | Manuscripts Gifts 2006 | Previous Issues | Endowments | Friends of the Library |
Thomas was the second son of James Proctor Screven (1799-1859) and Hannah Georgia Bryan (1807-1887). His father was a graduate of South Carolina College (1817) and the University of Pennsylvania Medical College at Philadelphia (1820) who served as a Georgia state senator, superintendent of Savannah water works, mayor of Savannah, president of the Savannah, Albany, and Gulf Railway, and captain of the Savannah Volunteer Guards. James Screven was also a successful rice planter, owning lands on Wilmington and Tybee Islands near Savannah as well as Ceylon and Brewton Hill plantations on the Georgia mainland in Chatham County.
Thomas was a graduate of the University of Georgia (1852) and the Savannah Medical College (1858). He took over the family’s planting interests after his father’s death in 1859 and was a member of the Savannah Volunteer Guards. He was promoted to captain of Co. B in 1863, a position he held for the balance of the war. His unit participated in the defense of Charleston Harbor, the Petersburg siege, and the battle of Sayler’s Creek and surrendered at Appomattox Court House on 9 April 1865.
The bulk of the collection centers on Thomas’ military service while he was stationed at Battery Marion on Sullivan’s Island during the defense of Charleston and, later, at Mattoax Station on the Richmond-Danville Railroad in Amelia County, Virginia. Ade spent the first years of the war in the Screven home in Savannah, but had moved to her parents’ home in Athens, Georgia, by February 1864. Topics discussed in his letters include camp life, artillery engagements near Charleston, blockade runners seen in the vicinity of Charleston Harbor and near Wilmington, North Carolina, and his duties guarding railroad bridges in Virginia. Of particular interest is a letter, 12 June 1864, from Thomas to his wife describing nearly one thousand Union prisoners that passed his location, he presumed en route to Andersonville prison, where, Screven surmised, “they will die like sheep.”
Ade’s missives kept her husband informed of events transpiring in their household and in the area surrounding Athens and Savannah. She updated him on the health of their young children, Richard (“Dixie”) and John, and tried to keep Thomas supplied with clothing and food. A letter of 12 February 1864 describes the difficulty in procuring ingredients to make him a pie, explaining that she had to settle instead for baking a “real Confederate cake” with currants. A letter written on Valentine’s Day that same year still contains the violets that “Dixie” picked to send his father. There are also a number of letters regarding the death of Ade’s youngest sister Fidelia in July 1864 from complications associated with catarrh. Various measures were taken by her father, Richard Moore, a physician, including the lancing of the young girl’s throat, but all proved unsuccessful. The correspondence ends following this tragic event, and Adelaide passed away later the same year.
Thomas married again in 1866, this time to Sallie Lloyd Buchanan, daughter of noted Confederate admiral Franklin Buchanan. The last two items in the collection are letters from Buchanan to his daughter and son-in-law. Thomas Forman Screven continued on as captain of Co. B of the Savannah Volunteer Guards until 1883 and was elected sheriff of Chatham County, Georgia, in 1906. He held the position until his death in 1913.