Letter 17 – November 16 1864  



SUMMARY
This letter is full of jubilation at the fall of Richmond, North Carolina and the routing of the Rebel armies. It includes vivid descriptions of the celebrations of citizens in the north and the black northern troops who were chosen as the first to March into Richmond.

TJ indulges his sarcasm for those who had said that a resolution of the war could not be achieved by force of arms alone while also expressing his distaste for the English Tories whom he views as dastardly supporters of the confederacy. There are references to "your (i.e. British) rascally blockade runners" and concludes "We have finished up your mean business of British blockade runners most entirely"

The end of the letter abruptly changes to a brief account of the economics of the rope making business, giving the impression that the author had put the letter down and restarted on a different topic on another day.


Just one of the buildings that was gutted by fire

Union troops entering Richmond

The govenor leaving Richmond



TRANSCRIPTION

ENVELOPE addressed to:

Mr William Slater
Rope Maker
Langley Mill
near Eastwood
Nottinghamshire
England
Europe

[3 postmarks: 1. Reading, Pa., date not legible. 2. New York/Pha April 15. 3. Paid / Liverpool / U.S. Packet / 28 AP 65 / 2A]










LETTER

Reading Penna April 10. 1865
12 Oclock at noon


Dear Cousin,
I have been about to write to you several times during the last three months, but we have been so very busy all winter at the rope walk, I have had so much to do, so many things to attend to, and such great events came and coming to pass in this great country, that I could not collect my scattered ideas enough to quietly sit down and write you an intelligible and coherent letter that would be interesting and do any thing like justice to the vast events of the great american war that have happened of late. But, as we say "make or break" I must attempt it now.

In my last letter I told you that in 6 months we could take Savannah, Wilmington and Charlston and effectually close every port in the rebel states against your rascally blockade runners. We have done all I promised you on that score most completely. We have finished up your mean business of British blockade runners most entirely and we have done much more within that 6 months.

We have so used up our aristocratic slaveholding liberty hating rebels that they are now quite beyond the help of British benevolence, and your tory sympathy can serve them no more, unless it kindly receives such as escape from america to wander over the world branded traitors to human freedom without a country or a home.

I suppose my lord Wharncliff and such like noble men will take pleasure in giving a kind welcome to these american gentlemen whom we naughty northern workies and "mudsills" have driven out because they broke our laws, attempted to break up or [our] free government, divide and subdivide our country and inflict upon us a worse fate than that of the serfs and trodden down classes of Europe. But when my lord welcomes thes [these] gentlemen (gentle as sucking doves no doubt, now they are vanquished) let him reflect that for over a year they have been trying to coax us to acknowledge their independence and then join them in a war against England.

These Same Southern gentlemen, are far more bitter against you British people because you would not allow your government to intervene in their favor, than we are against your tories & aristocracy for the underhand, mean money making assistence they gave them. They would make war on your whole nation at once if they had the power.

We have the power now. But bad as your Tories have treated us, we shall not declare war against you. But we shall put an export duty of a shilling a pound on our cotton, and this compell you to aid in paying off the debt you have so loyally assisted in putting upon us. We shall do this, not because we are afraid of you,or

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at all doubt our ability to punish your tory aristocracy severely. But we should also inflict suffering on your people who have been our friends and wished well to our cause. So we "calculate" that an export duty on our cotton will be better for us and cheaper for you than the bloodshed and cost and waste of war. Please excuse this digression. I could not help it. But I will now tell you of what I see and hear. We have had about two weeks of wild and extraordinary excitement. About the 29th of march General Grant commenced his grand attack on the great rebel army around Richmond and Petersburg. For 3 or 4 days the battle was terrible and severe. The rebel leaders knew well that the last great tug and trial was upon them & they plied their men with wisk whiskey untill they faught with the maddened desperation of devels. The slaughter was aweful but slavery could not conquer. Liberty was triumphant.

General Lee saw his army cut up and beaten back at all points. On Sunday morning April 2nd he sent to tell Jeff Davis that Richmond must be evacuated immediately, for he could keep the Union army back no longer. The dispatch reached Davis while in church, mocking the most high with his hypocritical prayers. Then the great skeddadle commenced. The whole confederate government vamosed with most indecent haste. All idea of dignity was done with. It was a regular irregular helter skelter devel take the hind most.

The news papers describe it better than I can. It was a trying time for the "first families of Virginia" and southern aristocracy generally. They set fire to all the flour mills and store houses, the navy yard, the rams and iron clads and did their best to destroy all they could to prevent it falling into possession of the union forces. It may be very interesting to your southern loan holders to learn that the rebel treasury was turned out into the streets. Bundles of confederate bonds were strewed around in all directions. The boys picked up millions of dollars of them and hawked them about and sold them as waste paper and sold them for about a penny a pound English money. So much for that speculation. I rather think some of your English southern sympathizers are sorry now that they did not profit by the warnings we gave them.

Sunday, april 2. 1865, was a day that will never be forgotten in Richmond, nor the night following either. They cleared out of Richmond none too Soon, and the upshot showed that General Lee stayed around there too long to escape. On Monday morning, april 3rd the Union troops took possession of the city and the first men that marched in was a whole brigade of black soldiers. Here was a severe slap. The capital of the great, vaunting taunting boasting southern confedercy taken by - "niggers" - Great black

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faced, thick lipped, flat nosed, woolly head, long heeled niggers - How oh! how are the mighty fallen - what a falling off was there -and what a putting on too. "Niggers". "Black niggers" with bright bayonets and muskets gleaming in the morning sunlight, marching in solid phalanx and battle array, right into the very sanctuary of all that is deemed by your aristocracy sacred and respectable on this on this far off continent. And what of the faithful slaves who were to be armed in defence of their kind masters and their own bondage, and fight for the confederacy and the better securing of their own shackles?. Did they rush to arms and drive back the barberous black invaders of the sacred city? - No. Not a bit of it.

They run and jumped and gamboled and danced for joy. They kissed and hugged and welcomed the brave blacks as friends, brothers and delievers. The little picanninies climbed around their legs, kissed their hands and chattered in wild wonder at such a strange sight. The black women fairly screamed with glee and uncontrollable delight and embraced the sable battle scarred brave warriors with all the warm fervor of long and heartfelt affection. Oh! that marching of our brave black men into Richmond must have been a glorious sight, a splendid spectakle. I would have given allmost a world of wealth to have witnessed it -. arm slaves in defence of slavery - Oh! what a just and god directed retribution for such a daring diabolical and develish idea, what a well deserved punishment for such a impious proposition.-.

But our great war has taught many such terrible lessons. Look at the sad fate of Charlston, where the first gun was fired at our flag and defience so insolently and haughtily hurled at us. The business half of the city battered to pieces with union bombshels. Grass growing in its diserted streets and wild animals frequenting its fine walks and flower gardens. Look again at the sad fate of Columbia the capital of South carolina, the first state to secede and begin the war. When the rebels evacuated Columbia they strewed the principal streets with opened cotton bales. Set fire to it themselves. The wind carried the blazing cotton onto the buildings, three thousand houses were burnt down in one night and full half of its inhabitants homeless. So it has been with other towns and cities in the slave states. They burned our beautiful town of Chambersburg, and our armies have retaliated by forcing them to burn ten times as much of their own property and compelled them to kindle the fires with their own hands. So vengeance is metered out to man stealing traitors here in free America. On Monday afternoon, April 3rd we got the news here of the capture of Richmond. We had before had the wild cry "Wilmongton is ours" -Savannah is ours"

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and when Charlston went and Fort Sumter fell back into the union we had a long loud hurrah and great rejoicing generally, But when the wires flashed the words "Richmond is taken" we had a perfect storm, a roaring tornado from thousands & thousands of throats, and near a whole week of congratulations on the capture of impregnable never to be had Richmond.

5 or 6 months ago, good, honest hearted, old fashioned democrats had very knowingly shook their noddles and with a deep sigh said "Richmond can never be taken" "The siege of Richmond will have to be raised" "The union can never be restored by war" "It can only be restored by conciliation compromise and negotiation". "Richmond has 7 lines of strong fortifications defended by over five hundred heavy guns and immense stores of amunition, Oh no, never, never, never be taken". But it is taken, and held, and the 500 great guns are ours, and all the vast stores of amunition are destroyed. And so anxious were the rebels to destroy that amunition, that traitor Breckenridge ordered a magazine to be fired that was close by the Richmond poor house, without giving the poor paupers time to escape, and the explosion killed and wounded some hundreds of the poor creatures. Such is the story we have. And it is most likely true, for a slaveholder cares far less for a poor white man than for his black slave. In fact he cares All for the black slave & nothing for the free white. Well, Lee retreated towards Lynchburg with the shattered remains of his rebel army. After a weeks weary march and a continued skermishing fight all the way, he had got about 80 miles from Richmond, when a strong union force of cavelry and Infantry and artillery headed him off, captured most of his wagon train, many of his guns and men, and on Sunday april 9. obliged him to surrender himself and the remnant of his army, about 32 thousand men, prisoners of war, to avoid entire annihilation.

The news reached here by telegraph about 12 Oclock the same night. And then began such a hubhub and uproar as I never saw before and never expect to see again. The church bells were all set to ringing, and every other bell in the city that would ring or swing at all. Although midnight nearly every body was soon out of doors. Bonfires blazed at the corners of the squares, in many parts of the town. Cannon were firing Salutes in the main and several other streets. About 2 Oclock this morning a public meeting was organized in the court house. But this time not to prepare for defence against a cruel, haughty and insolent foe. That foe had fallen never to rise again, and there were no such stern and anxious facesas I had seen there before at hasty and unexpected meetings when this same General Lee was a powerful invader of our state at the head of the great rebel army of Virginia. That powerful army was now broken, scattered and captured andGenral Lee himself a prisoner of war. Our people were wild with delight

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crazy with joy. They screamed and shouted, whistled and whooped and men hugged and kissed each other who were but slightly acquainted before. It seemed as if all the faculties of fun, frolic & boisterous enjoyment long restrained were now cast loose without the merest semblence of let or stint. All the firemen turned out in full uniform. The steam fire engines, Hand fire engines and Hose carriages were brought forth. Cannon were mounted upon wagons. and although it was a dismal rainy night overhead & very muddy underfoot, lanterns were lighted a long procession was formed and perambulated all the principal streets of the city Shouting, singing and firing salutes untill near day light. When morning came, all the Stores, shops and manufacturies and business places remained closed, all work was stopped and a general holiday inaugurated by common consent.

All seem to feel that in the taking of the rebel capital, the defeat and capture of their main army, and their commander in chief of all their rebel forces, the head of the rebellion is cut off, it is crushed out and the war at an end as far as the great armies engaged in it are concerned. Such is the feeling among all the American people & the same scenes of rejoicing and gladness were going on at the same time in every city, village, town, and hamlet of all the loyal states. In Philadelphia, Baltimore, New York, Boston. Pittsburg. Cincinati, and all the large cities they had immense turn outs. We have

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some of the particulars of the great battle before Richmond surrendered, from our rope walk men who were in them. Herman Selig was wounded. A musket ball through both legs. Making only a flesh wound though and he is now in one of the hospitals at washington doing well. We know that Mathias Bachtold [sic, possibly means Bechtel], Henry Granger, Lewis Neiman and my next door neighbour were in the army corps which stopped Lee's retreat and compelled his surrender. We have not heard that any of the four were hurt.

We have had a great fall in prices since last January. Manilla hemp went down from 19 cents per lb. to 12 cents. Rope went down from 28 cents per lb. to 20 cents. But we had been watching for and expecting it and were prepared for it. We had not much stock on hand. In money matters there is also a great change. Gold has fallen from 185 per cent premium to only 45 per cent and we expect to have our paper money nearly par with gold and our national affairs put into pretty good order by the end of this year. There has been but few failures, because all our business has been on the cash down plan ever since the war began. Scarcely any crediting at all. I have done a much larger trade, at a better profit during the last forty months than ever I did and no trouble or losses at all. Cash down paid for every thing.

I must close now. But I will write you again soon. I got your honored Fathers photograph & will write to him & send mine shortly. If I live I shall come to England before long and see you all. With love to all
I am as ever yours affectionately
Thomas Jackson



AMBASSADORS' NOTES

This is another letter to William Slater who spent time in US with Thomas Jackson in his early adulthood but then returned to England where his father Caleb also ran a rope walk

This letter represents a exhilarating summary of various Union victories culminating with taking of Richmond and, a few days later, the surrender of Lee and his armies. The letter captures the mood and appearance of the celebrations in the North

Unfamiliar names
Lord Wharncliffe
was an English member of the House of Lords and a prominent figure in the conservative party. He played a significant role in enlisting English sympathies for the Confederate cause.

See http://www.civilwarhome.com/americanquestion1.htm
Well worth reading l
European attitudes toward the Civil War were destined profoundly to affect its ultimate outcome, yet at the outbreak of the conflict most foreigners were poorly informed about the United States. As Leslie Stephen said in 1865: "The name of America five years ago, called up to the ordinary English mind nothing but a vague cluster of associations, compounded of Mrs. Trollope, Martin Chuzzlewit, and Uncle Tom's Cabin." Influenced by the rabidly pro-Southern London Times, most upper-class Englishmen tended promptly to side with the Confederacy. For years the Old South had been close to Great Britain in both business and society, and it was easy to see in the Southern planters an equivalent of the English gentry. British aristocrats like the Marquis of Lothian, the Marquis of Bath, Lord Robert Cecil, and Lord Wharncliffe thought that the success of the Confederacy would give a much needed check to democracy, both in America and in Europe. More liberal Englishmen, too, could favor the South, supposing its desire to escape Northern "tyranny" was something comparable to the fulfillment of Italian and German national aspirations. The character of the leaders of the Southern Confederacy inspired respect abroad, and the chivalric bearing of Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson enlisted the Englishman's admiration.

Though at first not so articulate, there were, in fact, large segments of British opinion which favored the Union cause. Many English manufacturers and shippers had strong commercial ties with the North. The powerful British humanitarian movement, especially the antislavery societies, found it hard to sympathize with the Confederacy. Friends of democracy and proponents of republicanism saw in the United States a model to be cherished. Powerful John Bright, leader of the British radicals, spoke eloquently of the "odious and... blasphemous" attempts of the Confederates to divide the United States and looked to the day when America, with 'One people, and one language, and one law, and one faith," should become "the home of freedom, and a refuge for the oppressed of every race and of every clime." The principal leaders of the British labor movement were "firmly on the side of the North," for they saw in the pro-Southern sympathies of the "millionaire aristocrats, venal politicians, and some of the press, led by the great bully The Times," a "hatred to freedom, jealousy of the growing power of the United States, and a desire to see democratic or republican institutions overthrown or brought into disrepute ."deepest admiration. From the outset of the war, therefore, the "great body of the aristocracy" in England was "anxious to see the United States go to pieces."

mud·sill 1 : a supporting sill (as of a building or bridge) resting directly on a base and especially the earth
2 : a person of the lowest social level

skedaddle
"to run away," 1861, American Civil War military slang, of unknown origin, perhaps connected to earlier use in northern England dialect with a meaning "to spill."

Va·moose

= Let's go!
Origins: Spanish vamos let us go, (from Latin vadere to go) : to depart quickly.

Helter-skelter
Meaning "In chaotic and disorderly haste"

But, beyond the fairground, what is helter-skelter? The term long predates the fairground ride and has been used to mean disorderly haste or confusion since at least the 16th century. Helter-skelter has been in common use in England for the past 400 years and has been known in the USA since the 1820s.

Neither helter nor skelter had any meaning in themselves. Like many word pairs of this sort (called rhyming reduplications), they only exist as part of the pair - although skelter was used alone later, but only as a shortened form of helter-skelter.

Pickaninny (also picaninny or piccaninny)
is a potentially offensive derogatory term in English which refers to children of black descent or a racial caricature thereof. It is a pidgin word form, which may be derived from the Portuguese pequenino (an affectionate term derived from pequeno, "little"). The term has also been used in the past to describe aboriginal Australians, although it is now rarely used and is not viewed as offensive as in other countries.

noddle
- an informal British expression for head or mind; "use your noddle"
Informal chiefly Brit to nod (the head), as through drowsiness; [Middle English noddel, back of the head, perhaps from Latin ndulus, lump, knob; see nodule.

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