Addition, 1860-1865, to Hammet Family Papers
| Manuscripts Gifts 2009 | Front Page 2009 | Previous Issues | Friends of the Library |
A gift to SCL Manuscripts Division announced in 2009
Eight letters, 1860–1865, augment the South Caroliniana Library’s holdings of manuscripts of the Hammet family of Clarendon District, S.C. Eliza Venetia Hammet (1845–1929), the recipient of the letters, was the daughter of William James Nelson Hammet (1818–1862) and his wife, Eliza S. West Hammet, of Manning. Five of the letters were written by Venetia’s brother, James Harvey Hammet (b. 1847), after he enlisted in the Manning Guards, Co. C, Hampton Legion, South Carolina Infantry. The father had served in the same organization until he was killed in action during the Battle of Seven Pines, Virginia, on 31 May 1862. Harvey reluctantly left his widowed mother, two sisters, and three brothers to join Hampton’s Legion in Virginia early in 1864.
| Manuscripts Gifts 2009 | Previous Issues | Endowments | Friends of the Library |
Harvey wrote his sister on 7 September 1864 from " Camp Near Drill House, Virginia," with the request, " you need not have the Boots made until I see whether I will get the appointment to the Arsenal [Academy in Columbia]." Although Harvey failed to mention anything about his military duties, the seventeen-year-old did remind Venetia, " You must tell me all about the girls when you write."
His next letter, written from the same Virginia camp on 21 and 23 September 1864, did contain news of his military responsibilities. " The ‘Med. Board’ met today & I once again acting Brig. Clerk....There was a good many furloughed and a good many rejected by the Board. There are always some rich scenes happen on such occasions which would not be altogether nice to submit on paper." He also reminded his sister of their deceased father: " The Legion Band has just struck up. I do wish you could hear it. It would tempt you to ‘donn’ the apparel of your Bro. & make you wish for two spurs upon your heel & a bright glittering sword by your side - would ‘rouse’ all the ‘martial spirit’ of our father in you." But other memories were more difficult to recall. " I can’t hardly bring to mind how little Manning & my house looks. All my past life seems as a dream and I feel only awakened to the magnitude of the present & its exigencies." Perhaps that was the reason he wanted his correspondence preserved. " I sent all my letters that I recd. since being in service home by Willie. I know you have them by this time, and will rummage over their contents - well, I don’t care just so you take care, & not let one of them be lost or misplaced," he admonished his sister. " I don’t know when I will get home, sometime before very long, I hope," he wrote his sister from camp near Richmond on 12 October 1864. His furlough request was granted in October and after a few days in Manning (Clarendon County, S.C.), he left on 22 October to return to Virginia.
Harvey devoted much of a letter written to Venetia on Christmas Eve 1864 from camp near Richmond to questions of religion and earthly purpose. " Why are you & I," he wrote, " here while many that are better than we are by nature, & perhaps far better by everyday practice, consigned to the cold and silent tomb...." " My dear sister," he continued, " listen to & be guided by Gods ‘holy spirit.’ There is no way of finding out your duty, but from the bible - Gods word that directs & teaches you the ‘way everlasting.’" He also responded to unexpected news about his fifteen-year-old brother Benjamin: " I was perfectly surprised to hear that Bennie had left for the army - tell me all about it.....I know he will wish he had not gone - Yet the emergency now is great," he acknowledged. In a letter written from the Hampton’s Legion camp near Richmond on 20 and 21 January 1865, he commented on his rations - " We only eat twice every day" - and the weather - " It has been raining all day & the water freezes as fast as it falls to the ground, long icicles are hanging from the trees, our tent is covered with a sheet of ice, & the fitful gusts of wind causes it to crackle like the noise of a new piece of paper....."
One other war date letter survives in the collection. Addressed from " Camp near Grahamville, S. C.," and dated 4 December 1864, the writer who signed simply as " Charlie," described his long ride from Hamburg to Grahamville by way of Charleston. " We came clear through without changing cars in a old box car at that," he related. Two additional letters to Venetia complete the collection. One, from Anna, a cousin, was written 16 April 1860 from Columbia, S.C., " a very poor place to gather news," where the young writer was in school. " The teachers take us out to walk sometimes, and it is very delightful for there is such pleasant walks in this city," she related. The other letter, from a friend, Eugenia, at school in Columbia, S.C., was written 19 October 1863 and contains little other than news of acquaintances. " I have a fine time with the teachers, don’t have my room to clean up, fire to make, or anything of that kind to do," she commented.
After the war ended, James Harvey Hammet returned to his mother’s home in Manning, S.C., but in 1868 matriculated at Davidson College in North Carolina, graduated with an A.M. degree in 1872, and spent the next two years as a student at Columbia Theological Seminary, a theological institution affiliated with the Presbyterian Church (USA), now located in Decatur, Georgia. Although much of the rest of his life was spent as an educator, he was also briefly, 1875–1876, editor of the newspaper, Blackville News. He was principal of the Manning Academy in his hometown, president of the Elberton [Georgia] Female College, and also taught in Kentucky and Virginia. In 1891, while president of the Pikeville Academy in Kentucky, he was ordained as a Presbyterian minister. Venetia Hammet married Confederate veteran Donald John Auld on 6 September 1866 and moved with him to Sumter, S.C., in 1871 where she spent the rest of her life.