24th Letter: King Cotton and Slaves (July 12, 1862)

July 12th 1862.

Camp near Richmond Va

Dear Mother.

King Cotton

Click image to read “Cotton in a Global Economy: Mississippi (1800-1860)” by Eugene R. Dattel.

I will avail myself of the present opportunity of sending you a letter by one of our boys that has been discharged and is going direct to Oxford, though I have written very frequently since I have been here m which I hope you have rcd. I rcd one from you all last week, one from Mary yesterday and another one, so you need not think that I have rcd no letters from you, The last from Mary + [words, probably “the old man,” are cut out of the letter] was dated July 12, stating that you had all heard from our big fight with all particulars.

This leaves me in the enjoyment of good health, though I can not, say that for all. Tubby and Tom Buford has [has corrected to have with pencil by different hand] been quite sick for a week, not well yet, they are going off to the country to stay awhile. There is not much sickness among the troops here now, some cases of fever.


Click image to listen to “Dixie, the Land of King Cotton.”

We are still trying on our own here, waiting for something else to turn up. We are doing fine generally with the exception of eating nothing but beef and flour, occasionally sugar and rice and peas. We get just about enough to bacon to put in our bread. I would think I was living like a Prince if I could get some vegetables to eat. We cant to get to town to by buy any, and if we could it would take all the of our money, what we do get is from Huxsters. They charge 25cts for 3 Onions hardly enough to make beef stake smell good, 40cts quart milk, 25 to 50cts for a plate of Apple dumplings or chicken stew; so you see it does not pay to throw away money in that style. At least I will I will be penurious enough not to do it.

Click image of Civil War era sewing kit or

Click image of Civil War era sewing kit or “housewife” to learn about the living history of Civil War reenactors.

We drew 25$ two weeks ago, and with that in Richmond you could not buy much more than a common hat and pants, the former of which I am necessarily bound to have, for I have been wearing an old cap that Dick Shaw made last [words, probably “winter at,” are cut out of letter] Camp Fisher for nearly 3 months. I have a good Jacket and pr Kersey pants that I got from the Government, but could not get any shirts so I will have to get one in the city. (two allowed to go from each company a day). You can send me a shirt and pr yarn socks by Newt Shaw, also a needle case and thread.

I see that foreign nations are very anxious for this war to close, they are needing our cotton badly, I am very anxious for it to close, for I assure you I never want to witness such scenes as I have passed through lately again, I saw sights that would make you sick, nothing to be compared to it, but I will not mention them. I must close for want of more paper.

Give my love to all the family, white and black. 

resd Reserve a due share for your self write soon and often to your devoted and affectionate son. PM Buford

P.S. P.S. Give me all the news you can about that army in that country, and tell me whether you have heard from Uncle Anderson or not. Burn this when you read it. you can let any of the family read it if they want to.

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Blogger’s Notes:

  • Several words, probably the old man, have been cut out of the letter.  The same words on previous letters have been seen either cut-out, rubbed-out, or scribbled-out.  Was this informal term considered to be a dysphemism by the original recipient or someone else as the letters passed down through the generations?
  • ”Tubby” is Goodloe Warren Buford, Jr.
  • Parham referenced the economic impact the War was having upon cotton exports.
  • Click image of 1860 US Federal Census Schedule 2 for

    Click image to view 1860 US Federal Census Schedule 2 of “slave inhabitants.”

    It was assumed Parham was not from a slave-holding household until preparing this post when it was observed the letter closed with give my love to all the family, white and black.  A previous post [see http://wp.me/p40u7G-nc] incorrectly stated otherwise because the blogger only viewed Schedule 1 of the 1860 US Federal Census.  Schedule 1 tracked the color of persons as white, black, or mulatto; recording all as white.  It was not realized previously that the schedule excluded persons in servitude until Schedule 2 was discovered which tracked slave inhabitants.  According to Schedule 2, it clear is there were seven black slaves connected to the household.

  • Parham included slaves when referring to “family,” an unsuspected word choice for many 21st century readers.  Did Parham grow close to the slaves he interacted with since early childhood? Did he use the word “family” interchangeably with “household”?

One comment on “24th Letter: King Cotton and Slaves (July 12, 1862)

  1. Jay Smith - US says:

    Interesting nuance “white and black”; makes you wonder what the war was really about.


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