1862: William Jefferies to Ramath L. (Hames) Jefferies

William Jefferies in later years
William Jefferies in later years

This letter was written by Private William Jefferies (1830-1906) of Co. F, 18th South Carolina Infantry. William was a planter from Draytonville, Union County, South Carolina. He was the son of John Corry Jefferies (1808-1865) and Sara Goudelock (1811-1844). He was married to Ramath Louisa Hames (1832-1905) in April 1860 and had one child — an infant named Ida Vienna Jefferies (1861-1928) — when this letter was written in August 1862.

“William Jefferies was born April 2, 1830, in what was then Union District, on Thickety Creek. He was educated at Limestone College. Taught a few years after graduation, and merchandised two years. Was elected to the State Legislature, in 1858. In April, 1860, he married Mrs. R. C. Farr, of Jonesville, South Carolina. In March 1862, he went into the service in Company F, Eighteenth South Carolina Volunteers, as private; being unable to stand the march, in November afterwards, he obtained a discharge. After resting awhile, he joined the Holcomb Legion of Cavalry, Captain Frost. He was detailed with other men to come to South Carolina, to get up horses for the dismounted men, and on the way back learned that General Lee had surrendered. After the new constitution was adopted, in 1895, he, with other men, went to work to create a new County – the result was the forming of Cherokee County out of Spartenburg, Union and York Counties. After this was elected Senator from the new County. He is a director of the Gaffney Manufacturing Company; the Merchants and Planters Bank, of Union, South Carolina; and also of the First National Bank of Gaffney, South Carolina.” [Source: Men of the Time: Sketches of Living Notables. A Biographical Encyclopedia of Contemporaneous South Carolina Leaders]

Private Jefferies wrote this letter to his wife just days after the battle of Cedar Mountain as the 18th South Carolina — part of “Shanks” Evans’ newly formed Brigade of South Carolinians — were ordered to join Stonewall Jackson in Northern Virginia. Following this letter, the 18th South Carolina endured a long march to participate in the battles at 2d Manassas, at South Mountain, and Antietam but it isn’t clear that Pvt. Jefferies made the entire journey into Maryland and back given his inability to endure the hardship of tramping long distances. The letter isn’t dated but I’ve determined that it was begun on the 17th or 18th of August and concluded on Tuesday, 19 August 1862.

From the letter we learn that Jefferies intends to send his slave Albert back home to “haul manure and fix fences, &c.” rather than to serve as cook to their mess on the march into northern Virginia. Census records after the war show that many of Jefferies’ former slaves stayed on the Jefferies plantation and worked as sharecroppers. Though I did not find an “Albert Jefferies” among these sharecroppers, one of the Negro children born in the 1870’s to these former slaves [Wiley Jefferies] bore that name. I also noticed the Blanton family residing in the vicinity whom Jefferies mentions in this letter.


Laurel Hill near Richmond, Va.¹
[18] August 1862

My Dear Wife,

I have determined this morning to send Arnold home. He has been very puny for some time & has done very little good & I fear he will get down on my hands for we have a long march in contemplation. We are ordered to Stonewall Jackson. It is very agreeable with us. We think we will fare better up there than here — that is, we will get some vegetables up in that healthy region. I have just heard Jackson had whipped Pope [Battle of Cedar Mountain on 9 August 1862] & taken 300 prisoners with 29 commissioned officers. Some have landed in Richmond (one General — [Henry] Prince).

My health is still improving slowly & on this march I am going to take care of myself if I can. I am going to stop along the road and get some fresh dinner once in a while if it is to be had. If Arnold behaves himself right I will let him stay at home until next spring but if he does not, let me know & I will send after him. We have a young man in mess who has a very good boy who can cook for us all (Thomas Horton). We hire him for $10 per month. I have no idea that Arnold could stand the winter here. His feet have been swelling at times lately. He can haul manure & fix fence &c. &c. I wish I could be at home for awhile now for I know it can’t be as dusty there as here if it is hot, which I doubt, for I think these are the hottest days I ever saw in my life.

We hear a vast number of camp rumors here tending towards the cessation of hostilities but there is very little hope. I saw a batch of northern papers brought by prisoners & in them I see a variety of notions — some large peace meetings & some flagrant, furious war meetings — & upon the whole I believe if the sober sense of the mass of the North could be arrived at, we would have a peace before long. But I don’t know when that day will arrive, but no war can last always.

Richmond, Virginia (1862)
Richmond, Virginia (1862)

I sent Mr. Blanton a letter yesterday by Murphy & told him to leave it with you. I also wrote to Sparks & you will see that I guess I want the orchard manured & planted in cotton next year & the place behind the lot in wheat after your potatoes are off the field where Mabry tends all in wheat & the other two by the spring where you have corn in oats & some rye if you can get it. I think Mr. Blanton has some & if he has, he will let you have it. I will not close this until I start Arnold. It may be tomorrow.

Tuesday morning [19 August 1862] at the Depot in Richmond before sunrise. We have marched from camp here since midnight. I have stood it very well. I will write as soon as we get situated again. I send you $20 by Arnold. I received my pants &c. last night by John Cook. ² It was dark & I have not seen them but know they are right for you made them. Still direct your letters to Richmond but also add Evans Brigade. ³ The boys are all well except Durban & I have not heard from him in a week. I received a letter from you yesterday, date 5th Aug, by mail. Also a note by Cook. You must not be uneasy about me for if anyone can get along, I can. I am sorry to hear that Mrs. Hands & Manda are so unwell but hope they may get better. Take care of yourself & kiss the baby for me.

Your devoted, — W. Jefferies

Shanks Evans
Shanks Evans

¹ Laurel Hill is southeast of Richmond.

² John Cook served in Co. B, 18th South Carolina.

³ Nathan George (“Shanks”) Evans (1824-1868) was given command of a newly formed brigade of South Carolina troops and led it to Richmond to join Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia in July 1862. Evans Brigade consisted of the 17th, 18th, 22nd, & 23rd South Carolina Regiments as well as the Holcombe Legion and Macbeth’s Artillery.

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