1864: Nancy E. James to Sarah Jane James

How Nancy James might have looked
How Nancy James might have looked

This letter was written by Nancy E. James (1833-Aft1880), the daughter of John (“Jack”) James (1801-1880) and Rachel O’Kelley (1809-1870) of Anderson District, South Carolina. Nancy wrote the letter to her sister Frances Sarah Jane James (1836-1918), the wife of Ira James (1830-Bef1880), upon hearing of the death of her sister’s little boy.

Other siblings mentioned in the letter include James Andrew James (1836-1900) and Thomas Elias James (1845-1899). Both brothers were probably serving in the Confederate army. James was probably the corporal who served in Company I, 21st South Carolina Infantry. The latter became a physician in Greenville after the war; he was murdered in 1899 and a court in Pickens County found Sam Lanier guilty of manslaughter.

Nancy records in her letter from her location in Barnwell District that she has noticed the “roar of cannon” near the coast some 60 miles distant. This was probably in Charleston where Gen. John G. Foster was making a demonstration to hold Confederate troops at that location while Sherman marched through Georgia towards Savannah.

TRANSCRIPTION
Addressed to Mrs. Sarah Jane James, Douthitt’s Post Office, Anderson District, South Carolina

Barnwell District [South Carolina]
December 2nd 1864

My Dear Sister,

It was with much sorrow that I received a letter last night from home informing me of the death of your dear little boy. I am very sorry that I could not have been with you to share your grief and to have helped you to minister to his wants in his last hours, but my absence from you denied me that consolation.

My dear sister, your little one is in Heaven. He has only gone before us and we shall see him again if we continue faithful to our Lord & Master. He does nothing but what is good, although we cannot see into it, and though it is very hard for us to think so, yet it is true. Your little boy is now free from pain & suffering whilst the rest of us have still to suffer awhile longer.

We have been hearing the roar of cannon, both yesterday and today on the coast about 60 miles from here and doubtless many of the poor soldiers are lying dead & wounded on the field, and many hearts are made desolate, and God alone knows when and how this war will end; let me beg you then to be comforted, and remember that you will one day meet your child where parting will be no more.

This is the third letter I have written home. Tell mother that I am well and that she must write to me how long brother James will be at home. Also if they have moved Thomas’ Company from Greenville, and where to. Give my love to all the family and write soon to your affectionate sister, — N. E. James


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