[letter of Wilson Miles Cary, Richmond, Va., to his father, begun on April 27, continues]
May 1st. What a day for the first of May! We have had two weeks of
almost constant rain & to-day shows no sign of being any better;
They say that at Yorktown you
the middle of the road & upon attempting to appropriate it you dis-
cover under it, not only the man gut sometimes even his horse,
such has become the condition of the roads there. I suppose the men
must have nice times sleeping in the mud & rain for the armies are so
close together that they cannot use tents, on account of their being too good
marks for the enemy’s cannoniers. There has been no change in
affairs since I began this letter, "how long can these things last”?
as South Lemmon would say. Our boys--that is the Md Regt.--
with Ewell--wherever he is. I am sorry to say the Regt will
be broken up--that is it will never exist entirely as it is now. Men
of the class of which a large portion of that Regt. is formed never can
be made soldiers, such is my firm conviction--they think entirely
too much of what they have given up & what sacrifices they have
made & of their position in Society &c. They all want to be officers--
This would be treason if any of them were to hear it as coming
from me--one not in the service--but of course it will go no
farther. They never have gotten along well & I can account for
it in no other way. The appointment of Col. Stuart is Brig. Genl.
of the M’d Line gave great dissatisfaction--the only man they say
who could never get it up. It is rumored that having achieved
his wish--promotion--he will now give up the formation of the Line
& that Jenifer or Winder (Sydney) or some other M’d man will have charge
of it who will do something with it. I hope so sincerely.
The twelve months men are now reorganizing & electing new officers.
& Richmond is full of decapitated officers with the longest faces--
(Rather an Irishism isn’t it?) Our friends in the old Regt can I
think very easily raise new companies for the line if they choose.
Their time is not quite out yet however.
I was very glad to hear from Ma’s letter that there was some prospect
of our receiving something soon. Such things here bear fabulous
prices. I paid only the other day $25__ for a pair of heavy boots.
In moving about so you lose everything almost that you have.
I lost the other day one pair of boots, one pair of shoes & a fine
black broadcloth coat. If the weather should ever get warm,
of which I don’t see much prospect at present, we will need
the summer things very much, the books also will be very
acceptable. I had quite a trip about a wee or so ago. Mrs
Barbour (who by the way is the sweetest woman you ever saw & very
pretty) wanted to leave Richmond & take up her quarters in
Danville, I accordingly escorted her down, engaged quarters for
her remained there two or three days until I got her comfortably
fixed & then returned. It was quite a delightful little break in
our hard work & I enjoyed it very much. while there looking for
quarters for her I stumbled upon a family by the name of
Womack, the old gentleman immediately asked me who I was
& where I came from--& finally decided that he had
you at Hampden Sydney--He was very polite to me indeed,
as was his wife. I don’t know whether you will recollect
him or not--Jno. P.Womack is his name. I left also at
Danville Aunt Mary & the girls (except Edith who is at school) they are
living there--the board is much lower than in Richmond--they
are all very well. Speaking of Aunt Mary reminds me of
Aunt Pat & her letter to Ma. I think I never heard of
unfeeling in my life as her hope, that you “would be soon be able
to have the girls back again, as Richmond would before long
here but a heap of ruins for them to take possession of,
should they ever get here--but of that there is not the slight=
est chance & therefore Aunt P might have saved her manners
& not made the breach between us any wider than it was
before. I think she has decidedly put her foot into it--Aunt
Mary was very much disgusted, I hope Ma replied to it as it
deserved. I can hardly believe that anyone would sit down
& gratuitously give such a consoling & comforting piece of news--
Ma certainly must have addressed her on the subject first & thereby
elicited the rebuke. If we are losing relations there--we are
gaining fast friends here--for certainly no one ever met better
& kinder friends than Major & Mrs. Barbour have been to us.
Major told me one day that he hoped Willie would never leave him
that when the war was over he hoped to persuade him to live
with him altogether--He thinks that Willie has no equal. Upon
arriving here in Richmond the other day--he gave him
magnificent gold watch & chain, & a few days after Mrs B. presented
me with one if anything a little finer--a very heavy English watch--
The gals are now sporting our grand silver ones--Major has fre-
quently--knowing that the girls were living in Richmond & not knowing
that they had any means of support--offered Willie to be of any assistance
that he could be--by money or otherwise. Indeed he has been just as
kind as he could be. He & Willie are now together on the Peninsula--
A man who came up from there yesterday said to me “Capt. Cary on
the Peninsula, is your brother, isn’t he”? I replied, “Yes,” “Well, he is the
biggest man down there now, riding around with Major Barbour all
day.” Imagine Willie “swelling”-- I heard a most ludicrous des-
cription of how they got something to eat there the other day--from
a Capt Hart--who was with them at the time. Willie had some sardines
which however were not very palatable without bread--& of that they
had none, so coming across a negro’s house, they called him out,
while Hart went in & stole his hoe-cake. Hart said he had
no scruples as the Negro would not have sold it to them. they then
made a sumptuous repast. That country is entirely foraged
out. As long as our quarterly accounts last, I will, I expect, stay here--
that is not a very pleasant prospect however, for the City of Richmond
is the most Yankee, extortionate, place I was ever unlucky enough
to fall into. the people here are very sore on the subject--it
offends them very much to say anything about it, they feel that
it is so true. The storekeepers are the most disgusting set of
people I ever met. I used to think they were bad enough in Balto.
but here they are a thousand times worse, being perfectly careless
about your custom & with very impudent manners. Certainly
Richmond as it is now cannot be a fair sample of Southern
cities. I have been hoping to see Joshua S.---here before this time.
I want him to come very much, and wish if he has not started, you
would try to see him & urge him to start immediately. My promise of
a place for him will remain open for him indefinitely. Whenever he
comes I will employ him, but I want him as soon as possible. I
don’t think he can be scared off by the gloomy aspect of affairs a the
present time, he is too good a Southern for that, or was when I last saw
him & I don’t think he could change on that important subject.
south Lemmon is now in Richmond, he is clerk for Jim Harwood--who is
a purser in the navy I think however a letter from him home will accompany
this therefore it will not be necessary to tell his people at home. He looks
much better than I have seen him since his sickness--but is still very pale
& delicate. He can never stand the service. George Lemmon tears around
here just as he used to do at home. One minute you hear he is at Yorktown
the next you meet him on Main St. You cant speak of him that he
doesn’t immediately turn up & is always just from the seat of war, Knowing
more than anyone else about all the movements of both armies. His
corps but always goes wherever there is a chance of a fight & altho’ he
keeps running backwards & forwards all over the country is certain to be
in at the death or the fight. Willie Robinson has joined the Balto Light
artillery & when I last heard from him was orderly sergeant of the Co.
I hope he will have promotion, he is just in the right place for it, but I
fear his want of stability & steadiness of purpose will interfere with him.
Arthur is a member of the Rockbridge Artillery--Col Pendleton’s old corps--
He was in town two or three days ago with some prisoners whom he brought
down from Jackson’s Army, but I did not see him.
What do you think of the promotion of your affectionate Cousin George W.
Randolph? I think I will apply to him for a commission, he could
not certainly refuse such a modest request from so near a relation.
The State of Virginia boasts at a great rate of what she has done for this
War, but I think she had taken better care of herself than of anything else.
She has the two first Genls.
a law which they passed the other day--should anything happen to the Prest
& Vice prest the successor would be F.M.T. Hunter, prest pro. tem. of the
Senate who was elected the last day of the session to provide for this
contingency--In case of his demise - Mr Thos. S. Bocock of Va. Speaker
of the House is the next on the list. She is in a fair way of having the
control of maters for some time to come I think. Giraud Wright is in
town, he is on his way to join his Co, having just been elected 2’d
Lieut of Dr.Thom’s company in a Batallion of Irish Regulars. He is looking
very well & seems in tolerably fine spirits. Shirley Carter is also in town, he is
a surgeon somewhere in the neighborhood of Fredericksburg, when he is at home.
I don’t know what has brought him to Richmond, but as the girls would say
“he is just as sweet as ever,” & says the same little pretty things to the ladies
that he always did. All this information about these young men will I
suppose prove a bone to you, but Ma can retail it to the “Girls they left
behind them” to whom it will doubtless be very acceptable, as, having no
beaux t home for their heads to run on, I suppose they will be very glad of
anything that will remind them of those they once had. There are a great
many pretty girls here (they are mostly strangers & not natives of Richmond) but I
don’t know any of them not having time to visit them.
I suppose you are all enjoying Sudbrook Cream & strawberries now or will
be by the time this reaches you. How I wish I could get up there for
a while to see them all, to say nothing of the strawberries. I suppose the
children all talk by this time, as Nellie was trying hard when I left.
Tell them they must not forget Uncle Johnnie & Uncle Willie--& give my
love to them. Give a great deal of love to Sister & M. W. & tell Sister
I will be very glad to receive another one of her long & interesting epistles
I have been anxiously looking for one from you for some time--but none
received yet. I hope you will honor me soon. Tell Ma to give my love
(I suppose it is admissible in these times) to all the Yound[sic] ladies who may ask after me &
say that I want to see them all very much, particularly Miss Ida, Miss Alice &
Miss Isabel--Present my regards to Mr. Sydney Cary & tell him that a young
gentleman of “Peaceful leisure” like himself, might sometimes find time to drop
a line or two in this direction--How do you all get along at the Club,
is it as Southern a place as ever, or have the men of property again become
[crosshatched on page 5]
weak in the knees? Tell Mr Mc I forwarded his letter for him & hope it will reach its destination
As long letters and crossed pates are both things for which I know you
have a horror and as I have been betrayed into the former I
will endeavor to avoid the latter. I feel however when I begin
a letter home as if I could spin on forever--I do so want to see
you all again. god grant that our separation may not be for
years Good-bye--dear Pa, with much love to ma & yourself & all
at home I remain your devoted son J. B. C.
I expect Jennie has told you every thing & doubtless much that I have
said, but it such a relief & pleasure to write home that I can’t