30th Letter: Negroes Gone, Houses Burned, Food Destroyed (January 17, 1863)

Goldsboro NC Jan. 17th, 63.

Dear Mother-

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Click image of USA General Grant’s forces encamped at Oxford, Mississippi to learn more.

From what I can learn the mails to Oxford are now in operation, so there is once more a chance to hear from our beloved and down trodden homes. You can not have the least idea how anxious I am to hear from you and still at the same time I almost shudder to hear of the condition those infernal Yankees have left you in, but I hope they have left you all enough to subsist on-

I thought I would not write untill I was certain you would get my letter. Several of the boys have already rcd letters direct from home but none from our immediate neighbor- Tom Buford arrived a few days scince bringing some news about their operations in that quarter- he told me that old Peter and family had gone and that…

…nearly all the negroes in the county had gone that they had destroyed all that the people had to subsist on, even to the last fowl-

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Click image of Henry G. Fernandez to view source.

I learned also that they had burnt Fernandez house- and cut up generally, but as yet, I have heard nothing positive.

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Image is of Southern men taking the Oath of Allegiance to the United States.

I hope you may receive this soon and give me all particulars- and tell me particularly who took the oath of Allegiance. I just imagine they have utterly ruined that country- but I believe there is a day of retribution coming sooner or later- I have enjoyed excellent health and doing as well as could be expected under the circumstances, but it is with a sad heart that I hear of the death of so many good and brave men by the ball of the vile invader. Two evenings scince I heard of the death of John Buford George Hope and the wounding of several other boys from our neighborhood-

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Click image to learn more about CSA Brigadier General Joseph Robert Davis.

The last letter I rcd from home was just after we left Cullpeper Cty. We left our old Brigade to form one composed of Miss boys commanded by Joe Davis a nephew of Jefferson- We staid at Richmond a month, when we were ordered to this place where the Yankees were trying to make an entrance- They had a small fight at H Kinston, 20 miles below and came up this far when they burnt the K Rail Road Bridge, but hearing that we were on our way here to reinforce they retreated back to Newborn where there is now said to be about 50,000 intending to attack this place Welden and Wilmington, but there is no telling what they will do.

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Click image of North Carolina’s 1861 flag to prepare for your visit to this friendly state.

I am much better pleased with the old North state than I expected- We are living high, at this time on corn dodgers and Potatoes- rareties that we have not been used to- The people around here have not much wealth but they are good livers and as are as free hearted a people as it has ever been my lot to meet with.

We are encamped in a perfect Pine Thicket and it takes all the soap we can get to keep the Pine smoke off. We have a snug chimney to our tent and can fare finely this winter if they will only let us stay here- but our movements will be altogether owing to the movements of the enemy.

I must close for want of paper which I expect you need. Write soon and let me know the worst. We will draw money soon I will let you have mine if you need it. Give my love to all the family and tell them to write immediately. Tell the old man  to write as soon as he can I will write to him next. I would like to write more, but have not the paper. Let me hear from you as soon as possible. Ever your true and devoted son. P M Buford

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Blogger’s Notes:

  • This letter contains several complex topics.
    • The Emancipation Proclamation went into effect 16 days before this letter was written.
    • Total war upon civilian population shattered the morale of Southerners at home and serving far away.
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      Click image to learn about UDC.

      Those who took the Oath of Allegiance to the United States before the war’s end were viewed as traitors and cowards.  No Confederate ancestor who took the Oath of Allegiance before April 9, 1865, shall be eligible to be used for application for membership within the United Daughters of the Confederacy. If proof of further Confederate service is available, thereby nullifying the Oath of Allegiance, the ancestor shall be considered for approval.

  • John Buford, likely an extended family member who served in a different regiment, is mentioned by Parham when he writes of the death of so many good and brave men by the ball of the vile invader.
  • Joseph (Joe) R. Davis, CSA Brigadier General, nephew of Confederate President Jefferson Davis, served in Mississippi senate during pre-war years.
  • A History of Company G, Eleventh Mississippi Regiment, C.S.A. documents information about comrades mentioned by Parham.
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      Click image of Thomas P. Buford to view source.

      Thomas (Tom) P. Buford, Parham’s cousin who brought the camp news of Northern operations in Oxford,  enlisted April 26, 1861; twenty-eight years old and single.  He was present at Seven Pines; was reported sick for several months of catarrh and bronchitis on Blackwater near Suffolk; he was furloughed to Mississippi.  His health was restored…and he returned to duty near Orange Court-House, in time to be present on 5th and 6th of May, 1864, at the battle of Wilderness.  On his last day of this engagement he was shot through the left thigh and sent to hospital at Richmond; from there he was furloughed again.  He had so far recovered from this wound as to return…in the trenches near Petersburg, Va.  He was present at Jones Farm, Hatcher’s Run, and Hawkes Farm, where he was again wounded, this time in the left knee; was sent to Richmond Hospital, 26th of March, 1865.  Gangrene attacked the wound and for weeks and months he was prostrated; was able to travel 1st of June…and (with his brother Warren) reached home July 1, 1863.

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      Photo source of George W. Hope: “Lamar Rifles: A History of Company G, Eleventh Mississippi Regiment, C.S.A.”

      George W. Hope, who hand-carried a previous letter to Parham’s family, enlisted April 26, 1861. Born in Mississippi, a student, single and 20 years old.  He was discharged…by reason of accidental wound through left wrist. [After recovery he reenlisted in the 30th Mississippi and did gallant service for his country in that command.  Was killed at battle of Murfreesboro, Tenn.]

    • Henry G. Fernandez, whose house was burned during the Union occupation, enlisted April 26, 1861; twenty years old and single.  He was present first and second days at Seven Pines, Gaines’s Farm, White Oak Swamp, Malvern Hill, Freeman’s Ford, Thoroughfare Gap, first day, Second Manassas, second day, Sharpsburg; first day, Gettysburg, Falling Wilderness, and on account of ill health was never with the Company any more.
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Eating Cattle Feed

Photo Source: Click Image

Southerners throughout the United States traditionally eat black-eyed peas on New Year’s Day for luck and prosperity throughout the year ahead.  Folklore dates its origin back to when Union troops waged total war upon the South.  During that time, invading Northern troops typically stripped the countryside bare of all stored food, crops, and livestock, destroying whatever they could not carry away.  Union soldiers did not bother with destroying black-eyed peas, also called cowpeas, because it was animal fodder.

Many Southerners on the brink of starvation discovered the spared cattle feed could sustain them.  Upon learning of the Northern invasion in his home town, Parham writes anxiously to his mother on January 17, 1863I almost shudder to hear of the condition those vile Yankees have left you in, but I hope they have left you all enough to subsist on. It is not outside the realm of possibilities that Parham’s family ate black-eyed peas during this time.

Black-eyed peas are typically cooked for New Year’s Day with pork flavoring, diced onion, and served with hot chili sauce or pepper-flavored vinegar.  The cooked black-eyed peas are usually accompanied with greens (e.g. collards, mustard, or turnip greens) or sometimes cabbage.  Cornbread is often on the side.  Black-eyed peas represent coins, greens represent paper money, and cornbread represents gold.  Some people serve with stewed tomatoes for good health.  The link below has further information and recipes for black-eyed peas.

http://gosoutheast.about.com/od/restaurantslocalcuisine/a/blackeyedpeas.htm